The Waratahs coach and CEO have played down concerns over the distribution of former Force players, as the dust begins to settle on 2018 squads.
While the NSW chairman Roger Davis reportedly said a fortnight ago that the move to lift the salary cap was ‘economic madness’, NSW rugby CEO Andrew Hore and coach Daryl Gibson were far more equivocal on Wednesday.
The Waratahs have added two players from the discarded Force side to their 2018 squad, in Alex Newsome and Shambeckler Vui, but had little change to their wider squad.
Gibson said there was no bitterness about where players ended up n recent months, despite a host of Wallabies stars following former Force coach Dave Wessels to Melbourne.
The salary cap to be relaxed in 2018 and squad sizes allowed to grow beyond the usual 30,with two franchises believed to be over the usual $5 million limit after the acquisition of discarded players.
“I think a lot has been made of that. We all had different recruitment strategies right from the start of the process,” he said.
“I’ll maintain we were only ever after three players and that was a tighthead, a lock and a centre and we’re pretty close to getting all of those, so we’re pretty happy with what we’ve got.”
NSW Rugby and Waratahs CEO Andrew Hore said the organisation had to ensure that it continued to develop homegrown talent, rather than worry about the distribution of players in 2018.
“We’ve got to be in charge of our own destiny to some degree and we need to put more resource into our elite development and into our community, so our discussions from where I sit, I’ve got to look beyond that to a degree,” he said.
“That said, it does have to be an element of fairness and the objectives were very clearly to improve high performance outcomes and investment into community so we’ll be making sure we hold ourselves to account to those objectives.”
The machinations of the salary cap in 2019 and beyond are yet to be determined, with a new collective bargaining agreement still under discussion, with RUPA and Rugby Australia meeting multiple times in recent weeks.
Waratahs prop Paddy Ryan said rugby had the chance to try and create some optimism despite the inherent turbulence that came with the axing of the Force.
“We’ve brought two great guys in from the Force after they got axed, we’ve brought in Shambeckler Vui, a good young prop and Alex Newsome, who are both great fellas,” he said.
“Whilst it was sad to see the Force go and it was sad to see those blokes lose their jobs and have to move away from Perth, there are positives to it and we’ve had two great positives come to us which is fantastic.”
When veteran tighthead prop Sekope Kepu will return to the lineup in 2018 is yet to be confirmed, with a pending appeal against his three-match suspension for a shoulder charge.
Currently, Kepu will miss the first three rounds of Super Rugby, available to play again on March 4, 2018.
NSW is contending that the Brisbane Tens should be considered a meaningful match and thus included in the suspension, a move that would make Kepu available for round three of Super Rugby.
The Autumn Internationals Disciplinary committee, governed by the Six Nations, will consider the appeal.
Meanwhile, former Force skipper Matt Hodgson and new Rugby WA chairman John Edwards are set to unveil a plan for the WA rugby pathway moving forward, with progress on the Indo Pacific Rugby Championship.
The Waratahs open their 2018 Super Rugby season against the Stormers on Saturday February 24, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT. Tickets at waratahs.com.au.