Phil Waugh led New South Wales to last year’s Super 14 final nursing a broken rib for the entire season, yet the inspirational captain could become the latest Australia player forced to Europe at the end of this year.
Off contract with NSW and the Australian Rugby Union in 2010, Waugh has outlined a desire to finish his career with the Waratahs by earning a new long-term deal this Super 14 season.
But he understands the decision rests with Australia coach Robbie Deans and ARU high performance manager David Nucifora.
With the emergence of Western Force flanker David Pocock on the Wallabies’ spring tour and the on-going battle with George Smith for honours as openside flanker, Waugh risks being squeezed out.
James Hooper writes for The Sunday Telegraph that judged purely on form with the Waratahs and Wallabies over the past decade, Waugh deserves a new deal. A driving force throughout last season’s NSW Super 14 success, he was once groomed as a potential long-term Wallaby captain.
“Over the next period of time I’ll look at my options and see where I sit. Robbie Deans’ plans are obviously very important to my future,” Waugh said.
“I really enjoy playing in Australia and playing for the Waratahs and playing in Sydney. The SFS is my favourite ground and I’ve been here 10 years. Once I’ve got a good understanding of what they’re thinking, I’ll be able to make some more informed decisions.
“Every year could be your last. It’s all a matter of form and injuries.
“I feel like I’ve got a lot of rugby left in me. I want to play until I feel I’m no longer competitive at the top level. Right now I feel fine.”
Nucifora expects Waugh to be a continued part of the Wallabies plans moving forward and intends to open talks in the next month.
The telling issue will be both parties reaching suitable financial terms, with Waugh certain to attract offers from European clubs.
Interestingly, Brumbies flanker and Waugh’s long-time adversary Smith is also off-contract.
“We’ll start talking to guys who are off contract from now onwards and Phil’s certainly on that list. He’s still very valuable,” Nucifora said.
With the scars of last season’s Super 14 final loss to Canterbury six months old, the Waratahs returned to pre-season training last Monday.
Gone were experienced forwards Rocky Elsom, Dan Vickerman and David Lyons, while prop Matt Dunning will be missing for most of the season after he snapped his achilles tendon on tour.
New coaches Chris Hickey, Michael Foley, Scott Wisemantel and Scott Bowen complete a fresh brains trust plotting the NSW game plan for 2009.Tweet