Hugh McMeniman heading back to Japan
February 25, 2014
Hugh McMeniman will leave the Force for Honda Heat at season's end © Getty Images
Hugh McMeniman is the latest high-profile player to quit Australian rugby, with the second-row set to join former Western Force and Wallabies team-mate Richard Brown at Honda Heat in Japan at the end of the Super Rugby season, News Corp reported on Tuesday.
The player known as "Madness" has played 22 Tests for Australia, most recently facing the All Blacks in the Sydney Bledisloe Cup Test at ANZ Stadium last August.
But he sustained a shoulder injury in that match and he has only just returned to action after surgery, starting on the bench in Force's Super Rugby season-opener against New South Wales at Allianz Stadium in Sydney on Sunday. McMeniman recently described the six-hour operation he underwent to fix his shoulder as "pretty ruthless", saying "I had two screws inserted, two wires in the AC ... a tendon graft and a full global reconstruction as well.
McMeniman has played in Japan for three years previously, leaving Queensland Reds and the Wallabies in 2009, having played in the 2007 Rugby World Cup, to join Kubota Spears. He returned to Australia last year, with the Force, and produced Super Rugby form good enough to earn a Test recall, as a blindside flanker, in Ewen McKenzie first match in charge of the Wallabies.
His departure comes only weeks after Ben Mowen announced he was leaving Australian rugby at the end of the season "for family reasons".
The news is bound to increase pressure on Australian Rugby Union (ARU) officials to relax their stance regarding Wallabies eligibility; at present, only players featuring in Super Rugby are available to Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie, meaning overseas-based players such as James O'Connor, Digby Ioane and Berrick Barnes are exiled from Test contention.
Barnes only this week told Fairfax Media the ARU should consider relaxing their rules, the former Wallabies playmaker denying such a move would see a flood of players leaving Australia.
Super Rugby discussion with Brett McKay and Greg Growden
''People think everyone's going to leave, but I tell you what, before you put pen to paper, there are a fair few things that come home to roost,'' Barnes told Fairfax Media in an exclusive feature interview. ''You have to leave your creature comforts at home, and we have it pretty good in Australia."
Barnes this season was named the most valuable player in Japan, where he scored 30 points in Panasonic Wild Knights' 45-22 victory against George Smith's Suntory Sungoliath in the Top League final.
Barnes acknowledged, however, that players "knew we were giving up when we left, that's for sure, so there's no real hard feelings or anything", and he confirmed he was looking to return to Australia to press a claim for Rugby World Cup selection.
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