Jarryd Hayne has evaded questions about returning to the NRL, saying he’s “just taking baby steps” after quitting the NFL in the US to seek a rugby sevens Olympics berth with Fiji. World Rugby has also confirmed the former Eels superstar will not be barred from Rio contention by drug testing rules.
Hayne told reporters in London on Monday he had “a big mountain to climb” but would work hard for a place under Fiji coach Ben Ryan, and a spot in this weekend’s international comp in the British capital.
Hayne’s surprise announcement on Sunday that he was leaving the San Francisco 49ers to seek a Rio berth with Fiji has sparked speculation about the 28-year-old’s return to the NRL, or a shift to non-sevens rugby.
He said he had made his decision to leave the NFL on Friday after receiving his Fijian passport.
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His allegiance was to both Australia and Fiji the 28-year-old told reporters.
When asked if he had considered a return to the NRL and which team he might join, Hayne repeated the phrase “just taking baby steps at the moment”.
Hayne has not played sevens rugby before but said he had been in touch with friends for advice about making the transition.
“The biggest thing will be a lot more running that’s something I’m looking forward to.”
Hayne said he hadn’t thought about what he would do if he didn’t make the cut for the Olympics with sevens champions Fiji.
He said there was no drug testing impediment that would stop him playing in Rio, saying World Rugby had given him the go-ahead despite him not being on the drug testing register for the past year.
In a statement on Monday, World Rugby confirmed that, saying its rules do not require a player to be included in a testing pool for a defined period of time before being selected for international competition for the first time.
“Hayne would be eligible for the London round of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series subject to all other regulatory and registration matters being met,” the statement said.
“He would also be immediately included in World Rugby’s pre-Rio 2016 risk-based testing program.”
When asked why Fiji was keen to take on a star player like Hayne when the side were already champions, coach Ben Ryan told reporters “if you are good, you want to get better”.
Ryan cut the press conference short on Monday, accusing media of being rude to a security guard who interrupted the interview to order journalists to move only two metres back.