Image:Rugby Union – Australia Press Conference & Training – The Lensbury Hotel, Teddington, Middlesex – 14/10/15 Australia’s Matt Toomua poses for a photo after talking to the media Action Images via Reuters / Peter Cziborra Livepic
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Wallabies coach Michael Cheika suffered a major loss on Monday with English club side Leicester announcing that utility back Matt Toomua would join them at the conclusion of the 2016 Super Rugby season.
The 25-year-old Toomua, who came off the bench in the Rugby World Cup final loss to New Zealand on Oct. 31, is not able for an exemption to the Australian Rugby Union’s eligibility rules.
Toomua, who can play flyhalf or inside centre, has played just 23 tests, well short of the 60 required by the ARU to grant an exemption for players based offshore to be selected for the Wallabies.
Until earlier this year, players had to be contracted with the ARU and playing in Australia to earn selection before they changed the rules for players who had made a “significant contribution to Australian rugby”.
Cheika selected Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell, both of whom play for Toulon in France, for the World Cup while Adam Ashley-Cooper and Will Genia are likely to come into that category next year after also heading to France.
Toomua has played 75 times for the Canberra-based ACT Brumbies in Super Rugby.
His versatility to play flyhalf and inside centre made him a valuable member of the Wallabies squad, with a strong defensive game, assured boot and distribution skills giving them the option of two playmakers.
“It is no secret we have been looking to sign a top-class player to add to our backline resources and Matt is certainly in that category,” Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill said in a statement.
“He is still a young man but has already achieved such a lot in Super Rugby and played extensively in test rugby for the Wallabies.”
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Justin Palmer)
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