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Bledisloe Cup

Wallabies jersey still means more to Aussies than yen

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 February, 2014, 7:51pm

While the Australian Rugby Union are not reluctant to 'export' the Wallabies to Asia, they are more averse to raiding Japanese corporations trying to whip away the cream of their rugby players.

But Australia has been lucky, with very few of its top players being enticed by the power of the yen, says John O'Neill, ARU chief executive officer.

'In real terms, we have lost only one player whom we didn't want to lose and that is Toutai Kefu. All the others have gone to Japan at the tail end of their careers and the loss hasn't had too much of an impact,' O'Neill (pictured) said.

Australia and New Zealand have borne the brunt of raids from the money-rich Japanese corporates who have over the years tempted players to move with huge sponsorship deals. Among the most famous Wallabies to succumb to the yen were flyhalf Stephen Larkham and winger/fullback Joe Roff. Barnstorming No 8 Kefu left at the end of the 2003 season, when he was at his peak.

He had won 60 caps for the Wallabies.

Last month, Stirling Mortlock, the Wallaby captain, reportedly turned down a US$1 million offer to play in Japan and signed a deal with the ARU until 2010.

'This was a significant decision for me and my family,' said the 30-year-old Mortlock who has 63 test caps and 99 Super appearances for the Brumbies.

'One of the significant factors for me, from a playing perspective, was to be part of Australian rugby's next generation.'

He added: 'Helping to bring through the extraordinary talent we are developing in our ranks is an exciting opportunity.

'So too is the prospect of playing under Robbie Deans.'

The passion of playing in the Wallaby jersey still counted for something, according to O'Neill who was thrilled at not losing Mortlock to Japan.

'Playing for your country still means something, especially if you are a younger player. They want to play international rugby and also to play in a World Cup. But of course, we also pay our players very well,' said O'Neill.

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