Wallabies five-eighth Noah Lolesio says the arrival of Stephen Larkham heavily influenced his decision to turn down lucrative overseas offers and re-sign with Australian rugby.
Lolesio is the latest up-and-coming Wallaby to spurn the growing piles of money in Japanese and French rugby for the chance to nail down a regular spot in the gold jersey, signing a two-year deal to stay with the Brumbies.
The young playmaker admitted a move offshore was likely at some point but that he believed staying in Australia for now would make him a better player.
With Wallabies great Stephen Larkham heading back from Irish province Munster later this year, Lolesio said the chance to work with a World Cup-winning No. 10 was too good to refuse.
It’s a good question isn’t it. I was tossing up other options overseas, but this decision is purely rugby-based, on my development of course, too, he told Stan Sport’s podcast Between Two Posts.
No spot in [Brumbies] or in Wallabies is certain, is it, that’s where the competition kicks in. I feel like for me it was probably a little bit too soon to go overseas and with Bernie [Larkham] coming in next year I feel like I can really develop my game and take it to another level. I’m 22 at the moment so hopefully later down the track that door is still open whenever I want it.
The news is a boon for the Brumbies, who are losing fullback Tom Banks to Japan on a deal worth about $1. 4 million per season, as well as centre Irae Simone. Second rower Nic Frost is still trying to back out of a deal in Japan.
It is also another piece of good news for the Wallabies, who have this year announced new deals with Jordan Petaia, Izaia Perese, Darcy Swain, Lachlan and Ryan Lonergan, Izack Rodda, James Slipper, Hunter Paisami, Lalakai Foketi, Dave Porecki, Jock Campbell, Andrew Kellaway, Pete Samu, Harry Johnson-Holmes and Kurtley Beale. Rob Leota also re-signed last June.
Heading offshore, along with Banks, are the Reds’ Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and Angus Scott-Young, Fergus Lee-Warner, Byron Ralston and Kyle Godwin at the Force, and potentially more.
Meanwhile, the Waratahs are confident of welcoming back Michael Hooper from a head knock that kept him out of the weekend’s win over Moana Pasifika, with the Wallabies flanker training on Monday.
The Waratahs are riding high after consecutive wins against the Crusaders and Moana, but are bracing for a step up in pace when they welcome the Hurricanes to Leichhardt Oval on Saturday.
The Jason Holland-coached New Zealand side are ranked seventh heading into round 13 but are only three points behind the Waratahs on points and blew the Fijian Drua off the park on Sunday in a 67-5 smash-up in Wellington.
They boast a back line featuring Julian Savea, Jordie Barrett and Jackson Garden-Bachop, plus Ardie Savea in the back row and a powerful front-row combination of hookers Asafo Aumua and Dane Coles and props Owen Franks and Tyrel Lomax.
We’re probably getting back into a more Crusaders-style of footy, NSW assistant coach Jason Gilmore said. Moana we knew probably wouldn’t challenge us with foot speed or movement, it was more their physical size and how brutal they were in contact.
This week’s going to be a lot more faster-paced with the game. We’re going to have to train that way through the week, we’re going to have to make sure we’re super fast on the field, ready to go, because the Hurricanes will bring a different challenge.
Gilmore said the Waratahs were keeping their surprising surge up the competition ladder in perspective. Saturday was the side’s first win on New Zealand soil since 2015 but came against the 11th-ranked Moana side, which has battled for momentum in a Covid-19 disrupted season.
Certainly not going to get carried away, DC [Darren Coleman]’s been really big on the boys, once you roll in on Monday it’s a new job and – it’s the old cliche – but we have to focus all our energy on the Hurricanes.
Get through that, and then we worry about the Highlanders. It’s a pretty important next four weeks if we want to jag that fourth spot (on the ladder).