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Aussie-born England capped rake Nic Dolly signs with Force ... and he'll soon be eligible for the Wallabies

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18th April, 2024
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Two years after a serious knee injury scuppered Nic Dolly’s hopes of running out for England against his home nation Down Under, the one-Test Australian-born hooker could make a stunning international U-turn by running out for the Wallabies as early as later this year after signing with the Western Force.

After it was announced that Dolly would leave Dan McKellar’s Leicester Tigers at season’s end, The Roar can reveal the 24-year-old has signed a multi-year deal to join Simon Cron’s Force side.

It means Dolly, whose only Test appearance came for Eddie Jones’ England off the bench during their narrow win over the Springboks at Twickenham in November 2021, will be eligible for the Wallabies should Joe Schmidt wish to call up the hooker for the end of year Spring Tour.

Nic Dolly poses for a photo with his first England Cap following his side’s win over the Springboks at Twickenham on November 20, 2021 in London. (Photo by Dan Mullan – RFU via Getty Images)

Force general manager Matt Hodgson said the franchise was “rapt” to “bring Nic back home to Australia”.

“Nic’s signing is further reinforcement of our commitment to squad depth in all positions and he brings international quality, for both club and country,” he said.

“He proved himself as a high-quality hooker at Leicester and we’re excited to offer him an opportunity to get back to playing regular games to boost his international aspirations.”

Dolly said he had spoken to new recruits Sam Carter and Harry Potter, who previously played at Leicester alongside the hooker, and was impressed by the direction the Force were heading.

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“I’m excited to play and just play really well to help the club on its trajectory,” Dolly said. “I’ve been over here for seven years, and I always had a plan to go back home to play rugby.

“The Force approached me and made me feel wanted which was a huge attraction. The long-term plan and direction the club is going is exciting, with Crono locked in for the next few years. It feels like a great move and a great place to live.”

Dubbed the “human mullet”, Dolly will give Cron another hard-working hooker whose extraordinary rise to the professional ranks reflects his attitude on and off the pitch.

Indeed, having been looked over by the Australian Schoolboys and failed to garner any real interest from the Waratahs, Dolly decided to head to Britain for a family holiday where he’d also play some rugby.

He ended up not just staying two months but for the best part of seven years.

In what proved to be an extraordinary sliding doors moment, Dolly, who’d asked his rugby-loving grandfather to put some feelers out from a local club in England’s north, caught the eye of Sale Sharks scouts and ended up receiving a five-year contract as a teenager.

The opportunity saw him bunker down with future England captain Tom Curry and led him to receive an offer from Coventry, before eventually moving to the Tigers.

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It was there that he caught the eye of Jones, who liked the cut of the Kenthurst-raised hooker’s jib.

“What a story it has been in terms of resilience,” said Jones, when asked which young England players stood out to him during the end of years Tests.

“Dolly is a good, tough player, he wants to learn and he’ll give you everything he’s got.”

In many ways, Jones, a former hooker, saw a lot of Dolly in himself.

“We spoke about it,” Dolly told The Times in an interview shortly after his debut in late 2021.

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“Eddie would say so himself, but he was a small hooker and I guess, for the size of everyone now, I am too. So for me it is about throwing myself about, getting stuck in and being as aggressive as I can be.”

Marcus Smith slips a tackle from Jasper Wiese supported by Nic Dolly during the Autumn Nations Series match between England and South Africa at Twickenham Stadium on November 20, 2021. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

Dolly’s remarkable story to the top showcases some of the shortcomings in Australian rugby around talent identification and pathways. But it also showed Dolly’s desire to stick at it.

“It’s been a crazy six months . . . it’s been a crazy five years, really, since I moved here,” Dolly added.

“If you look where I’ve come from — being at Coventry and then the transition to Leicester, starting the first five games and then getting an England call-up — it’s truly a blessing.

“I never had aspirations [to be a rugby player]. I didn’t really see a professional pathway in Australia at the time. I didn’t go to private school and I was never picked up by any of the schools that were major feeders for the Waratahs.

“It was only really when I came across to England. I had a chat with my grandad. He’s mad for rugby, and I wanted to try to get some good-quality rugby in before I went back. A few emails flew about and they got me in touch with one of the academy managers at Sale and it snowballed from there.

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“The choice of what to do next was made for me, in a sense. I had nothing to go back to in terms of rugby in Australia. The obvious decision was to repay the country that had given me the opportunity.”

Nic Dolly looks to throw into a lineout during the Premiership Rugby Cup match between Leicester Tigers and Ampthill Rugby at Mattioli Woods Welford Road Stadium on September 24, 2023 in Leicester. (Photo by Patrick Khachfe/Getty Images)

Now, two years after a cruel injury from an illegal crocodile roll ended his hopes of touring Australia for England’s come-from-behind 2-1 series win in 2022, that opportunity has presented itself for the ambitious hooker.

Dolly will be the second international rake to arrive in Perth ahead of next season following the confirmation that Brandon Paenga-Amosa is returning to Super Rugby after a couple of seasons with Montpellier in the French Top 14.

His arrival will give Cron some serious depth at hooker, with the second-year Super Rugby head coach heavily reliant on Tom Horton since taking over the Force.

It will also give Schmidt another quality player of international standard to pick from.

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For a nation that has struggled for consistency in that department since Stephen Moore and Tatafu Polota-Nau wound down following the 2015 World Cup, that can only benefit the new Wallabies coach.

As for Dolly, he’s bound to play his part having already felt the buzz of playing international rugby.

“It’s made me hungrier to play at the highest level,” he said in late 2021. “You get a taste of it and you want to come back and prove yourself. You don’t want to be that person who just plays one cap.”

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