Waratahs look at signing Caveman Chabal


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The Waratahs are said to be chasing French cult hero Sebastien Chabal as one of their potential foreign players for the 2008 Super 14.

The ARU announced last week that they will allow Australian Super 14 teams to field (possibly two per team) foreign players in an effort to slow the player drain to the Northern Hemisphere.

NSW have confirmed that they are widening their search offshore to replace Australia lock Dan Vickerman and flanker Rocky Elsom.

Waratahs coach Chris Hickey has pointed out that few foreign stars will be available as early as next season but former ARU performance coach Pat Howard has suggested that the Waratahs go after Chabal.

Howard was coach of the Leicester Tigers and is therefore a good judge of British and French talent and believes that many players would love a chance to play in the Super 14.

“There is genuine interest, there is a little bit of mystique about the Super 14 for a lot of players,” Howard told the Daily Telegraph.

“I am absolutely sure there will be players jumping at the opportunity to give it a go.”

Vickerman is taking some time off from Australian rugby with plans to study at Cambridge next year and Howard said pursuing the Caveman could be an on- and off-field success.

“If you throw a carrot in front of someone like Chabal … he could turn up and do something amazing. People would flock to see him play because you don’t know what will come of it,” he said.

“The French have some really athletic second-rowers. Or you look at someone like Paul O’Connell, the hard, physical Irish second-rower. If you’re losing Dan Vickerman you chase someone like him.

“In the sixes, there are some very athletic, aggressive guys running around over there. You look at guys like the England flankers Joe Worsley and Lewis Moody, Ryan Jones out of Wales or even a Serge Betsen. There’s no shortage of talent to look at.”

But while also endorsing the new direction, Hickey says NSW won’t rush anything in the coming months as they finalise 2009 recruitment.

With Vickerman, Elsom, David Lyons and Al Kanaar all off the books, the new Tahs coach says the “middle row” is still an area that needs attention.

“Obviously this ruling by the ARU opens the playing field up globally,” Hickey said.

“We feel we have some good young players a year off playing Super 14, and two years off being a starting player.

“So the opportunity to have a more experienced player to fill some of those positions while you’re developing the next wave of players coming through is a good one, and it has the opportunity to provide a lot of interest from a spectator point of view.”

“Some people will wait and see and others will jump in. To have Jonny Wilkinson playing for the Reds or Brian O’Driscoll playing for the Brumbies would generate a lot interest.

“But the reality is anyone who is half-decent is already contracted until June next year, so I think it is more leading into the 2010 season we’ll open up more.”

And what about Chabal as a Waratah? “He’d generate a lot of interest,” smiled Hickey.

A problem for the Australian teams is that should a player from the Northern Hemisphere want to play in the Super 14 it would rule them out of the Six Nations where the players are highly rewarded let alone the honour of playing for your country.

Given the large amount of money that players earn in the Northern Hemisphere it is unlikely that many players would line up to take a pay cut.

Australian team may be best served by trying to approach players who have come to the end of their international careers.

Hickey says the concept of bringing an older player with Test experience to mentor young players is a good one.

“When you look at any player, you’ll look not only at what they can do on the park, but what they can add to the culture of the team,” he said.



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