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Aussie axe falls on Kane Douglas after his switch to Leinster

The second row has been omitted from a 32-man Wallabies squad to face France next month.

Kane Douglas tackles Alun-Wyn Jones during Australia's first Test against the Lions.
Kane Douglas tackles Alun-Wyn Jones during Australia's first Test against the Lions.
Image: Rob Griffith

“WINNING A WORLD CUP guarantees long-term security. Being an anonymous player in Europe does not.”

Leaving aside the typical Australian presumption that the Wallabies will win World Cup 2015, this well placed Super Rugby source had a point about Kane Douglas’ move to Leinster.

The 24-year-old turned down an improved pay deal with the Waratahs to take up a two-year contract, with Leinster, in the region of €140,000 per season [bonuses could see it rise an additional €50k]. It is a 50% bump on his current salary and one Douglas found hard to turn down. There is also the challenge, of course, of establishing himself in the Leinster second row and competing for the Rugby Champions Cup next season.

What Douglas seems content to sacrifice, however, is playing for Australia in next year’s World Cup. Given the fact that he started in all three Lions Tests and has been in good Super Rugby form this season, Douglas could have expected a starting role during the tournament.

14-times capped Douglas is the second high-profile Australian to shun an ARU contract to head for Europe. Walabies captain Ben Mowen, fresh from leading his team to four victories on their northern hemisphere tour, late last year, accepted a lucrative offer to join Montpellier. Mowen cited large tracts of time away from his young family as the main motivation for his move. He wrote, “I will be moving to France, where the balance of home life and footy is more in keeping with where I’m at in my life.”

Douglas, when his signing was made, admitted his Leinster move was a big decision for both himself and his partner, Jennerly. He told the ARU he would still be available for selection if needed and declared he ‘cherished every moment wearing the Wallaby jumper’.

George North tackled by James O'Connor and Kane Douglas 22/6/2013 Douglas and James O'Connor tackle George North. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Former Wallabies centre Nathan Grey, who is assistant coach with Melbourne Rebels, had urged national coach Ewen McKenzie to select Douglas ahead of Thursday’s squad announcement. The lock, he declared, is in the form of his life and should not be readily discarded. That call went unheeded. McKenzie named a 32-man squad for June Tests against France and neither Douglas nor Mowen were included.

“In the second row,” McKenzie told Green and Gold Rugby, “We’ve got three uncapped players [Will Skelton, Luke Jones and Sam Carter]. That is in response to two of our players, in the last 12 months, who have chosen to go off-shore. We need to rebuild that area a little bit.”

It would appear, for now at least, that Douglas’ international career is over. McKenzie has never ruled out selecting overseas players while, at the same time, not selecting any in his first 11 Tests as Wallabies coach. The only exception was Sitaleki Timani, who remained with the squad for the 2013 Rugby Championship, before heading off to Montpellier.

There are rumblings in Australia that Douglas ‘doesn’t give a toss about the World Cup’ but it does not exactly stack up with his prior commitment to his country.

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On his team’s 2012 tour to Europe with the Wallabies, Douglas’ mother, Trish, suffered a stroke while flying out to watch her son play France. She was taken from Heathrow to a London hospital and placed in an induced coma. Douglas, who was in Paris at the time, was urged by his father and brothers to stay with his team and play. He earned his fifth cap on 10 November, 24 hours later, in a 33-6 loss to the French.

The lock visited his mother regularly in hospital, in England, but remained on tour. He started in the second row, three weeks later [December 1], against Wales and helped Australia to a 14-12 win. Trish Douglas passed away in May 2013.

Leinster are getting a player of immense talent and someone seeking a new challenge after a life-changing 18 months. He will hope to test McKenzie’s will by helping his new club to European glory next season.

Australia squad to play France

  • Props: Ben Alexander, Pek Cowan, Sekope Kepu, Scott Sio, James Slipper.
  • Hookers: Nathan Charles, Stephen Moore, Tatafu Polota-Nau.
  • Locks: Sam Carter, James Horwill, Luke Jones, Rob Simmons, Will Skelton.
  • Back-rowers: Scott Fardy, Scott Higginbotham, Matt Hodgson, Michael Hooper, Ben McCalman, Wycliff Palu.
  • Scrum-halves: Will Genia, Nick Phipps, Nic White.
  • Fly-halves: Kurtley Beale, Bernard Foley.
  • Centres: Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, Matt Toomua.
  • Back-three: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Nick Cummins, Israel Folau, Rob Horne, Pat McCabe.

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Patrick McCarry

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