Cheika to abstain from Hayne hunt for Wallabies
SAN FRANCISCO – Michael Cheika is happy to talk to Jarryd Hayne if his mission to play rugby sevens with Fiji at the Olympics falls through but the Wallabies coach will not go out of his way to woo the former National Football League player.
Sydney-born Hayne dropped a bombshell earlier this week by quitting the NFL after a single season with the San Francisco 49ers and announcing his bid for the Rio de Janeiro Games.
But the former rugby league international has only this weekend’s London Sevens to impress Fiji coach Ben Ryan and has not yet been guaranteed game-time at the tournament.
Due to eligibility rules, Hayne’s selection for Fiji would preclude him from ever playing international rugby for Australia.
If Ryan overlooked him, however, Hayne could still play for the Wallabies if he first committed to playing for a local Super Rugby club.
“I’d be lying if I said: “Ah, no’ and tried to play it cool (about Hayne),” Cheika told reporters in Sydney on Thursday.
“Of course he’d go well in Super Rugby. You’ve seen his form in rugby league before, you’ve seen what Israel (Folau) has done in rugby as well, you’ve seen what many other players who have come across have done.
“But we’re going on a strategy more about players who want to come and play rugby. A player will always succeed when they want to come over — not chase them and try and force them to change their mind.
“I’ve only met Jarryd a couple of times, he knows what the game’s about, he knows what league’s about, he’s obviously involved in the sevens. He’s an achiever and he’ll succeed in whatever he decides but that choice is totally up to him.”
A sublimely talented fullback in rugby league, Hayne defied the odds to win a contract as a running back at the 49ers but struggled to cement his spot.
A number of Australia’s top-flight National Rugby League (NRL) clubs have expressed interest in Hayne, who won two Dally M medals as the competition’s best player when at Sydney’s Parramatta Eels.
Securing a player of Hayne’s profile would be a marketing coup for Australian rugby, which has a much smaller following than the 13-man code.
Australian Rugby Union boss Bill Pulver said the governing body had not sounded out Hayne on a switch to rugby but said his door was wide open.
“Sadly, we didn’t get a call from Jarryd Hayne,” he told reporters.
“He would be absolutely welcome to play rugby here in Australia, he’s a truly elite international athlete so we’d love to have him.” -Reuters