Nick Cummins out of World Cup as he heads to Japan
July 4, 2014
Nick Cummins is a popular figure among Australian rugby fans and players © Getty Images
Nick Cummins has signed for Japanese Top League club Coca Cola West Red Sparks for next season after being released from his contract with Western Force and Australia on "compassionate grounds".
Cummins released a statement through social media on Friday afternoon thanking Rugby WA and the ARU. He stated that "I must now put my own interests in the World Cup aside" and that the "health and wellbeing of my family is paramount and the move to Japan is something I have to do for them."
"Nick's got a very unique situation and he's requested a release from his contract with us and the Australian Rugby Union [ARU]," Force chief executive Mark Sinderberry said at a press conference on Friday. "[He] faces a very unique set of challenges and we're very mindful of what's going on. In conjunction with the players' association [RUPA], we've been working through those details so that release will be granted. It's hugely disappointing but it's ultimately more disappointing for Nick in terms of the situation he faces."
Cummins' move puts paid to his hopes of playing with the Wallabies at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, due to the board's stance against selecting overseas-based players in the Test team.
"We'll try and find a way to keep the door open for him to return" Sinderberry said, while Force coach Michael Foley said Cummins would be missed because he "is always important to us, both on and off the field … he rips in, he gives 100%, and off the field he's always good for a little bit of a laugh.. The mood of the squad's good with 'Cummo' round."
ARU chief executive Bill Pulver said: "Nick has been an incredibly entertaining and successful player on the field for the Western Force since 2008 and the Wallabies since 2012. The enthusiasm he brings to our sport and unique personality that he has shared with the Australian rugby community will be sorely missed."
RUPA chief executive Greg Harris said: "We're grateful for the way this matter has been handled and we feel that considering the circumstances, the appropriate decision has been made. We're glad Nick's welfare has been considered by granting an early release from his contract."
Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie said "we appreciate that this is a decision based on what is best for him and his family at this time". While Wallabies captain Michael Hooper said "Everyone's an individual and has got to do what's right for themselves. As a group, he's an integral part but I think everyone can understand, everyone's happy with the fact he's made a decision on behalf of himself and he'll be happy with that. So there'll be no issues in the team with it."
Cummins is the latest Wallabies player to head overseas before the Rugby World Cup, after Ben Mowen and Kane Douglas, while Western Force team-mates Jayden Hayward and Salesi Manu have signed to play with Benetton Treviso in Italy.
Cummins played for the Wallabies in all three Tests against France last month, and his departure will affect them in the one backline position in which they lack depth even though Joe Tomane has recovered from a facial injury and Henry Speight becomes eligible to play for Australia during The Rugby Championship. James O'Connor is also expected to return from Europe to play for Queensland Reds and push for a Test berth next season.
His departure is likely to increase the pressure on the ARU to consider either the selection of overseas-based players in the Test team or the granting of player sabbaticals.
French newspaper Midi Olympique reported this week that Top 14 clubs were approaching a raft of Australian players, including "almost every regular in the national side", and 17 Australians are currently playing in the French premiership.
Waratahs sources, meanwhile, have confirmed to Ruck'n Maul that Top 14 champions Toulon are interested in signing Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau as well as Michael Cheika.
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