The Wallabies' World Cup case for Nic White, Will Skelton

Nic White scored the match-winner when the Wallabies defeated the All Blacks in Sydney ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup Andrew Aylett/Corbis via Getty Images

They were deemed surplus to requirements four years ago, but Nic White and Will Skelton have very much been a part of the Wallabies' World Cup discussions this time around.

The England-based duo have been in excellent form of late, prompting a recent visit from Wallabies coach Michael Cheika to gauge their interest in returning home and therefore making themselves eligible for Japan later this year.

While neither meet the required 60-cap Giteau Law rule, they would become eligible for the Wallabies should they sign a Super Rugby deal for 2020, even if that came in the contract form that will see Matt Toomua link up with Melbourne Rebels once his Leicester commitments end next month.

Off-contract with Premiership leaders Exeter at the end of this season, White appears the man most likely. The 28-year-old scrum-half is reportedly keen on a return home after first departing for French club Montpellier when he missed the Wallabies squad in 2015.

An Australian teammate of White's at Exeter, Oliver Atkins has seen first-hand the scrum-half's role in helping the Chiefs to the top of the Premiership ladder; the former Waratahs lock adamant White would be an invaluable addition to Cheika's World Cup squad.

"I don't know what his [White] future plans are at this stage; obviously Cheik would be silly not to try and recruit someone of that stature back to Australia, especially with the World Cup coming up," Atkins told ESPN. "But he's had a great season, he really leads the forward pack around; he barks a lot, which is what you want in a halfback, but he backs that up. The way that he's been playing this year has been great.

"He's settled in the last couple of years and has really made this place his own."

Atkins believes the competition at halfback at Exeter has seen White take his game to a new level.

"Young Jack Maunder, he got his chance with England the season before in Argentina, and Stu Townsend, who started the grand final that we won a couple of years back, they're nipping at his heels. And he's [White] doing really well to fend them off, and he's playing some really good footy."

With the box-kick becoming an increasingly critical tactical option and defensive exits also hugely important at Test level, White's skill-set could be a real asset for the Wallabies among a list of candidates for whom defensive kicking is not such a strength.

"It's no secret we like to keep the ball in play a lot; it's a huge responsibility for the halfbacks and their box-kicks and the way that we exit," Atkins said of White's role at the Chiefs. "We exit in a really structured way; we want to get out [from inside their own 22] cleanly but we also want to keep the ball in play and back our fitness, and back our defence.

"So he's obviously got a huge role in that with his kicking game and he does it really well, and then also when we have the chance to attack we keep the ball alive for a really long time, which eventually wears teams down. And he's doing a great job in terms of picking and choosing the moments to scoot, to pass, to kick, and he's been controlling that really well from the back of the ruck."

While White remains unsigned beyond the end of the current Premiership season, Skelton's situation is far less rosy from an Australian perspective. Reports suggest the 18-Test lock has signed a two-year extension with Saracens, despite no official announcement yet being made.

Skelton has proven himself a huge asset to the defending English champions, who sit second in the Premiership and have also reached the semifinals of the European Rugby Champions Cup, filling a role when the likes of Maro Itoje, George Kruis and Nick Isiekwe have been on England duty.

He also shipped 13kg at the start of the season, improving his work-rate and endurance in the process.

"I was injured, so I didn't get to play against big Will, but I did play against him the last couple of years," Atkins said of Skelton. "This year he looks like he's trimmed down a bit and is moving around the paddock really well; but he's just a massive ball-carrier for them and a huge go-forward man.

"He's doing well to get them on the front foot and seems to be playing that Sarries style and really enjoying himself...he's always had great skills with his ability to offload in contact and stuff like that, but he's getting around and doing a lot of work. And from what I can see when he plays for Sarries, he's doing a great job and he's a key man for them."

Atkins' comments echo calls from James Horwill, except that the former Wallabies captain went one further and called on Rugby Australia to get creative in its foreign-based player eligibility policy.

Horwill argued the development of the global player market shouldn't prevent players from representing their country, too. The Harlequins lock is adamant Rugby Australia could find a way for the Wallabies to utilise the talent available to them, no matter its location, while not prohibiting players from setting themselves up financially.

Rugby Australia has so far resisted any proposed changes to its Giteau Law.