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IRFU's Fox hunt pays dividends as Australian youngster set to sign with Connacht academy

The IRFU are keen to complete the move before the eligibility rules change.

Harley Fox will come in ahead of World Rugby's rule changes.
Harley Fox will come in ahead of World Rugby's rule changes.

THE IRFU ARE on the point of adding a promising young Australian number eight to the playing roster here before the eligibility law is extended from three to five years.

And Eric Elwood, who has taken charge of the Connacht academy, looks set to benefit with Melbourne Rebels back row, Harley Fox, set to be posted to the Sportsground.

The 21-year old has spent the past two seasons with the Melbourne Rebels but did not feature in Super Rugby and, with them now facing an uncertain future, Fox has been persuaded to move to Ireland and work his way through the academy structure.

He will become the third Australian player to be added to the extended squad at the Sportsground, with back rower Jarrad Butler joining from the Brumbies after almost 50 Super Rugby appearances, while former Australian U-20 out-half Andrew Deegan is also poised to move to Galway as New Zealander Kieran Keane takes over from Pat Lam.

Fox, who spent his early years playing rugby union, has been identified by the IRFU as a possible project player with performance director David Nucifora apparently keen to get him to move to Ireland.

Former Connacht coach Elwood, who has taken over the academy at the Sportsground this summer, is set to monitor and nurture the progress of the young Australian and will be boosted by having such an experienced player in the set-up.

Fox is a former rugby league player who made an instant impact after switching to union after eleven years, and was named captain of the Australian schoolboys team in 2014 not long after making the switch.

He was drafted into the Melbourne Rebels extended squad in 2016 after representing Australia in the World Rugby U-20 Championship in Manchester, a tournament where, ironically, Nucifora’s nephew, Harry Nucifora, was scrum-half for the Aussies.

Fox could become one of the final project players to qualify to play for Ireland after being here three years before the eligibility criteria rises to five years in 2020.

New coach Keane is due to arrive in Galway in the next two weeks from New Zealand after the Chiefs’ involvement in Super Rugby concludes.

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John Fallon

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