In a warning sign for Australian rugby to get their ducks in a row sooner rather than later, Waratahs hardman Lachie Swinton is set to sign with French Top 14 club Bordeaux.
The Roar can reveal that the 26-year-old international back-rower will leave Australian rugby following next year’s Super Rugby season.
Swinton was offered an extended deal with the Waratahs and a Rugby Australia top-up, but without a director of national rugby in place, nor a Wallabies coach to negotiate with, and other back-rowers like Rob Valetini and Rob Leota already signed on long-term deals, neither party was in a strong position to try and retain the back-rower.
In the end, Swinton couldn’t turn down an offer worth more than $500,000 – around double what he would have received by staying at the Waratahs.
Swinton’s pending departure is yet another warning sign for RA not to dither on key appointments, particularly with the NRL swarming and other clubs in France and Japan circling the likes of Waratahs winger Mark Nawaqanitawase.
While the 194cm, 113kg blindside flanker has had a chequered career to date, with injury and discipline slowing his development and output on the field, Swinton had the potential to develop into a Marcos Kremer-type figure.
Indeed, he became the first Wallaby to be sent off on Test debut in 2020 when a Television Match Official intervened to stop play after All Blacks stalwart Sam Whitelock was hit high.
But his half-hour cameo of strong carries and crunching tackles offered the Wallabies a new sense of physicality that had been missing for years.
“I thought Lachie made a big statement in the 30-odd minutes that he was on the field,” Wallabies coach Dave Rennie said following the rising forward’s debut.
“Everything that we asked of him bringing a bit of edge; what we know about tackle, around clean, around work-rate, he was massive.
“He’s pretty disappointed (with the red), but he made a real announcement on the international stage.”
Now, just as Swinton was starting to find his feet after missing the majority of 2022 because of a nerve injury in his shoulder and a six-week ban this year, the popular Waratahs forward is set to leave.
It comes after two strong performances for Australia A, where he was one of Jason Gilmore’s best against Portugal, and the Barbarians during their six-week tour of the United Kingdom, which put his name up in lights in the northern hemisphere.
Laurie Fisher, who was an assistant for Australia A and the Barbarians, said he was impressed by Swinton’s development and application throughout the two-month tour.
“Swinno was excellent for Aus A and the Barbarians,” Fisher told The Roar.
“He brought his usual good work rate and a bit of sting in defence, but additionally [he] worked on trying to be less combative in his carry game, finding space rather than faces.
“His desire to look for contact in defence doesn’t need to crossover into his carry game and he’s a better footballer when he focuses on timing, evasion and space on carry rather than seeking out contact.
“I found him to be a good pro, always well prepared physically and tactically.”
In other news, Waratahs second-row recruit Miles Amatosero has played his last match for Clermont and is set to join his teammates next week.
Brumbies playmaker Noah Lolesio is also on his way back from France after a short-term stint with Toulon.
The French club wanted Lolesio to stay for another month, but it was decided that it would be in his best interests to push his case at home ahead of next year’s crucial Super Rugby season.