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Wallabies in danger of losing Hanigan to ambitious French club just as forward enters his prime

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24th April, 2024
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Ned Hanigan is one of the in-form forwards in Australian rugby who looks set to finally turn promise into quality on the international stage, but the Waratahs are in a fight to keep the services of the Wallaby.

The Roar can reveal that ambitious French pro d2 club Provence, who are currently second, is targeting the 29-year-old, with a decision on his future believed to be imminent. It’s the same French club that recently signed British and Irish Lions star George North.

It’s understood Rugby Australia has offered Hanigan a national top-up, but it’s unlikely the governing body will be able to match the hefty six-figure deal that is being dangled in front of the 26-capped Wallaby.

Waratahs coach Darren Coleman told reporters on Wednesday that the Super Rugby franchise was desperate to keep hold of the versatile forward, who has been picked at No.8 to take on the Chiefs on Friday night.

“I don’t think they have to do more, like they’re trying hard.” Coleman said.

“I know it’s an ongoing discussion at the moment. That’s between Ned and RA.

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“We’d love to keep Ned and we’ve done everything that we can from our end of the salary range to keep him.”

Ned Hanigan is weighing up a move to France. (Photo by Pete Dovgan/Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

After Coleman was sidelined from contract discussions recently, experienced Rugby Australia official Ben Whitaker has taken over the discussions with Hanigan’s management given the Waratahs have been without a full-time general manager since Andrew Blades departed last year.

The loss of Hanigan would be a blow to the Waratahs and, indeed, Australian rugby.

Along with his quality, Hanigan has been one of the real characters in the game since debuting for the Waratahs in 2016.

Such was Hanigan’s impact in his opening 12 months of professional rugby that then-Wallabies coach Michael Cheika quickly rushed the back-rower into his side.

But after being overplayed in his first couple of seasons, Hanigan’s card was unfairly marked by many.

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Since returning from a short-term stint in Japan though, the 192cm, 110kg forward’s physicality has improved out of sight.

Indeed, it’s only now that the forward truly looks international-ready.

Such has been the influence of Hanigan this year that he’s ranked as one of the Waratahs’ best in every match he’s taken to the field in 2024.

Against the Crusaders, Hanigan was voted as the Waratahs’ player of the match.

It came after he and Bordeaux-bound Lachie Swinton rolled up their sleeves and took it upon themselves to punch through the Crusaders’ defence.

Their one-two punch off a lineout laid the platform for Jack Grant to play off quickly, allowing Julian Heaven to score to put the home side in front during their epic golden point win over the seven-time consecutive champions.

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“The carry and clean work in those two rucks in particular, if we could get that at every ruck I’d be doing a lot better health-wise,” Coleman quipped.

“It sits under our intent, energy and execution. That clip in particular showed amazing intent.”

On the two back-rowers, Coleman added: “Swinton and Ned have had great seasons. Every game he’s played he’s [Hanigan] been one of our top three players. He won our guardian award, our man of the match, last week and Lachie was right behind him.

“You’d say their best positions are six, but they’re going so well we have to fit them both in there.”

Ned Hanigan of the Wallabies makes a break

Ned Hanigan in action against the All Blacks in 2020. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

While the loss of Swinton increasingly looks like a blow, losing Hanigan would be another tough pill to swallow as he looks to enter the prime of his career.

The Waratahs’ hopes of re-emerging as a Super Rugby title threat, as well as challenging the British and Irish Lions next year, would also cop a significant hit.

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For now, Hanigan will move to the back of the scrum to face the fourth-placed Chiefs on Friday night as the Waratahs look to build on the momentum of beating the Crusaders almost a fortnight ago.

Their hopes of posting back-to-back wins for the first time this season however have been hurt by yet another front-rower going down, with Theo Fourie suffering a foot injury that will see him miss the rest of the season.

He is the third contracted hooker out of action for the Waratahs, with incumbent Wallabies captain Dave Porecki yet to play a match this year and Mahe Vailanu going down against the Rebels late last month.

Fourie’s injury has seen Coleman turn to Jay Fonokalafi once again.

“Our front-row, I’m not sure what they’ve done,” he said.

“We’ve now got eight of our 10 contracted front-rowers unavailable. I’ve never had a cluster of injuries in a positional group like this before.

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“Jay came back in today, that was a late issue with Theo, so that’s now all three hookers done for the season and five of our seven props. It’s incredible.”

Wallabies star Angus Bell meanwhile has begun his rehabilitation from his latest foot injury, with the 23-year-old hoping to return within five months.

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