The Waratahs have been placed on alert for a possible exodus of players and staff with as many as 10 personnel tipped to leave.
Rupert Guiness writes for Sydney Morning Herald that Wallabies back-rower David Lyons has been granted a release to play in Wales next year.
With Lyons having negotiated a lucrative four-year deal with the Llanelli Scarlets, the Waratahs face the prospect of losing up to eight players, of whom five are Wallabies with 152 test caps between them.
A number of NSW staff are also set on leaving with Waratahs coach Ewen McKenzie, whose contract has not been renewed.
Attack coach Todd Louden has already announced he has a head coaching role with Japanese club Ricoh next year, while the future of several other Waratahs coaches and personnel is uncertain.
Lyons’s request for a release from his Australian Rugby Union and NSW contracts, which have a year left to run, met with no resistance. “We took a commercial decision to free David from his commitments in Australia from May 31,” said an ARU spokesman. In making this decision, we have taken into account the interests of all parties.”
Lyons has conceded he is unlikely to play for the Wallabies again and needs to move to Wales after this year’s Super 14 – and would thus be unavailable for the domestic test series in June and July.
But Lyons said his decision to sign with Llanelli was not related to the imminent departure of McKenzie, who is in the final stages of negotiations with French Top 14 club Stade Francais.
“It was nothing to do with anything that’s been happening here with Ewen leaving,” Lyons said. “I just thought it was going to be a good time to do it. I am pretty excited. I always thought I would eventually go over there. I was approached by them and felt deep down it was the right time to go.”
Lyons, who recently became the third Waratah, with Chris Whitaker and Matt Burke, to play 100 games for NSW, expects an emotional farewell.
“I’ve been here since I was 18 or 19. It will be hard,” he said.
McKenzie supports Lyons’ move. “By all accounts he has picked up a great deal, a four-year deal,” McKenzie said. “It’s security. He has set himself up, I don’t begrudge him.”
McKenzie believes Lyons, a Wallaby with 44 test caps, deserves an early release from the ARU because he is one of “the institutional players, the guys who have been there a long time and are the heart and soul”.
But McKenzie warned the Waratahs were in store for a massive period of transition with so many people soon to be released – or opting to pursue opportunities elsewhere.
Confirmed departures from the Waratahs’ playing ranks include second-rower Dan Vickerman (with 52 test caps) and centre Ben Jacobs to England, utility back Sam Harris to Japan and winger Alfi Mafi to the Brumbies.
Meanwhile, Josh Valentine, who has four test caps but has fallen to being the Waratahs’ third-ranked halfback (due in part to injury), has been tipped to join the Western Force.
Others who may leave include Wallabies No 6 Rocky Elsom (to the UK or Europe) and hooker Adam Freier (Brumbies).Tweet