Australia has lost a club vs country battle with the Japanese employers of Samu Kerevi and Sean McMahon, with both players now out of the spring tour, along with injured Reece Hodge.
Coach Dave Rennie confirmed the absence of Kerevi and McMahon, while said Hodge’s pectoral injury suffered against Japan was severe enough for him to miss the three European Tests.
Quade Cooper meanwhile wasn’t on the plane to Europe and he is no certainty to be released by Kintetsu Liners for the three Tests even though Australia has the right to call him up under World Rugby regulations.
Rennie said further meetings would have to take place with Cooper as a potentially fractious situation develops between the Wallabies and their playmaker.
“Right from the start the boys wanted the blessing of the club to tour,” Rennie said of Kerevi and McMahon.
“In Samu’s been away from Suntory for a while, they’re in preseason now and a competition that starts in January. They’ve always been positive about being back in the environment, keen to be a Wallaby, and we felt if they got the blessing of the club to tour they would tour.
“We left on Sunday, the Japanese boys stayed in Japan based on reg nine and they met the club on Monday and informed us they would not be travelling.”
Rennie said he felt the players made the decision because of “a bit of pressure on them to win. They’ve got a number of players away with the Japanese national team and they wanted those guys around to help preparation and pre-season.
What an utterly predictable sh*t show this is. https://t.co/1rBwf6WYDx
— Ben Darwin (@bendarwin) October 26, 2021
“We were disappointed obviously, Samu in particular had played five Tests, been excellent on and off the field. I know these boys have loved their time in the environment.
“In Quade’s case and Samu they’ve been away for quite a long time. Obviously Sean spent less time in our environment. They did mention when we were at Royal Pines that they were nervous at how their clubs would respond to them touring and they were keen to get their blessing to do that.”
Kerevi has been suffering an ankle injury, but Rennie declared he would be fit for the Scotland Test. McMahon left Australia early from the domestic campaign to attend to a family issue.
After beating Japan last weekend Rennie, was directly asked by The Roar if Cooper would be on the plane that left Sunday. His answer was an emphatic “yes”.
But Rennie has admitted Cooper did not travel with the team.
“We spoke with Quade this morning. He with club, and we’ve got a meeting with them tomorrow,” he said.
Rennie was asked if Cooper’s absence could affect his long term prospects of playing more games for the Wallabies.
“The situation’s been a bit different this year, with a bit of leeway from the board,” Rennie said.
“There’s no doubt the board have talked about the importance of people making themselves available consistently to be a Wallaby. What happens beyond this year, all we know is the plan this year, and the plan was we could pick some players from over here to allow us to leave some boys home.
“It’s in its infancy from a Wallaby perspective. The Argentinians, South Africans, pick most of their squad out of Europe and I guess clubs sign those players knowing they’re going to lose them at various times of the year.
“It’s potentially a complication at the moment that could remedy itself over time. We’ll get together with the board to get an indication of where to from here.
The availablity issue has been bubbling below the surface for weeks. Australia has every right to call up the players, but Rennie has stated his mindfulness at striking an accord with Japanese clubs.
The withdrawals and Hodge’s injury has left the team with 32 of the initial 37.
“We’re a little bit thin, especially with Hodgey looking like he’s going to be out long term so we’ll certainly be looking for replacements,” Rennie said.
He said contact had been made with Kurtley Beale.
“We’ve made contact with Kurtley, and we’ve had conversations with Kurtley over a period of time, he’s made it really clear his desire to be a Wallaby again and with the introduction of some of the guys he played with previously he was pretty excited by that. We had a conversation yesterday around that.
“We’ll need more than one. But we’ve got to get board approval to get more overseas-based players because our preference is not to drag guys overs from Australia.”
Rennie accepted the planning could have been better.
“Yep, you’re probably right. Covid’s thrown a lot of curveballs at us. It’s disappointing. They’re guys we’ve really enjoyed in our environment and we were keen to get a bit more out of them. They’ve made their call based on the desire of the clubs and we’ve just got to get on with things.”
RA chief executive Andy Marinos was disappointed to learn of Kerevi and McMahon’s decision to withdraw several weeks after they initially told Wallabies staff they would take part in the tour.
“From our side, it’s hugely disappointing,” Marinos told the Sydney Morning Herald. “It’s disappointing for the fact that we’ve backed these players, in terms of giving them another opportunity.
“We just expected a more honest approach, right from the beginning, if it was not their intention to travel.
“If there was an inclination they were not going to tour, we would have appreciated it a lot earlier. At the time, when they were told they were going to be selected on that tour.”