Rugby Australia, along with the Australian Super Rugby clubs, are busy signing up players for the World Cup in 2019 and beyond. New recruitment is largely being paused, with experienced internationals being lured to Australian clubs by the prospect of the World Cup next season.
The Melbourne Rebels (with a presumably healthy contribution from Rugby Australia) got the ball rolling a few months ago, bringing Matt Toomua home from Leicester for the end of the next Super Rugby season. Toomua impressed as a centre and makeshift five-eighth for the Brumbies and Wallabies before heading to England, and has played for the Wallabies in the Rugby Championship this year.
The Waratahs were the first to secure a really big name for the foreseeable future, signing NSW and Australian captain Michael Hooper for five years – which will take him to the 2023 World Cup. They have also secured Bernard Foley for another year, after which it seems likely that he will go overseas. Israel Folau has signed for another four, meaning he will come off contract again in the lead up to the next World Cup.
There are also reports that veteran Adam Ashley-Cooper is looking to return to the Waratahs, with the Japanese competition taking a break next year. There have been rumours about other high profile Australians returning from Japan, like Sean McMahon and Berrick Barnes, but nothing official has been announced.
The Brumbies have signed gun prop Allan Alaalatoa for a five year deal of his own, and also brought in Pete Samu. Apart from these two they have made no high profile signings, and have some cash left to spend on returning players.
In addition to Toomua Melbourne have brought in Quade Cooper for 2019 – and in his case it is for the full season. Cooper signed a two year deal with Queensland and Australia for 2018 and 19, but was left out of the Reds squad by coach Brad Thorne. He will push to regain the Wallabies 10 jersey, and will have a gun backline around him to help out – including his old partner in crime Will Genia.
Queensland have made no high profile signings, however Liam Gill is understood to be looking for a return to Australia. The Reds have managed to get themselves into a position where they have little money to spend but also very few star players, and they are still paying a large portion of Cooper’s salary at Melbourne. With his departure, however, they will have more wiggle room – especially if Karmichael Hunt also leaves.
The majority of the Wallabies squad are signed until the end of the 2019 season, so we will probably see a lot more movement around this time next year.