French Top 14 club Bordeaux Begles is believed to be making a bid to lure ACT Brumbies winger Henry Speight away from n rugby as the Fijian flyer weighs up his Super Rugby future.
Speight and his management are locked in negotiations with the Brumbies and Rugby , who are hoping he commits his future to the Wallabies beyond the World Cup in 2019.
Speight’s contract expires at the end of next year, but cashed-up European clubs are already circling n talent and are prepared to table lucrative deals to poach players before the World Cup.
There has been speculation Speight is being targeted by Bordeaux for the 2018-19 season and the 29-year-old spent time in France after the Wallabies end of year tour of Europe.
However, Speight has a deep love of the Brumbies and Canberra and is keen to help the club win its first Super Rugby title since 2004.
Speight and the rest of the Brumbies’ contingent of Wallabies will return to training in the second week of January, with David Pocock and Christian Lealiifano to join the group two weeks later.
Coach Dan McKellar will take the reins for the first time next year, but has already started planning on player retention such is the nature of international rugby.
Speight played eight Tests for the Wallabies this year, six of those in the starting XV. He also scored seven tries for the Brumbies – his highest tally since 2013 – and was the club’s most dangerous attacking weapon.
But he faces massive competition for a Wallabies wing spot after the rise of NRL convert Marika Koroibete, Reece Hodge and Dane Haylett-Petty.
“We’re keen to keep Henry around, he’s a senior player in our leadership group and will be involved in that group again,” McKellar said.
“He’s someone, as a player, is a try-scorer, is always a threat with the ball and he can create something out of nothing. That’s the sort of player we need at the Brumbies.
“He’s got a lot of experience and is great in the community, he’s one of our most popular players in the community and we want to make sure we can keep guys like Henry at the Brumbies.”
Lealiifano is also off-contract at the end of next year, but he will likely delay a decision on his next move until he finds his feet in Super Rugby again.
The 30-year-old playmaker has been in outstanding form for Irish club Ulster and his stint abroad might be the perfect launching pad for his Super Rugby comeback after a battle with leukaemia.
McKellar will wait until Lealiifano and Pocock return to training before deciding who will be the club’s captain next year, but the first-year coach is already excited about the potential of his squad.
Speight has been a Brumbies first-choice winger for six of his seven seasons in Canberra, scoring 34 tries in his 94 games.
He had a stint with the n sevens squad last year to chase an Olympic Games goal before returning to the Brumbies squad this year.
Western Force recruit Chance Peni, Andrew Muirhead, Tom Banks and Lausii Taliauli will all be pushing for a spot alongside Speight as the Brumbies aim to improve their attacking potency.
“Those guys have the ability to create something … they can be the threat when defences are so good,” McKellar said.
“Speighty is someone who brings people to the games, people want to go and watch Henry Speight play.
“There’s going to be good competition for our back three next year and as I’ve said from day one, it’s going to come down to trial form. Whoever performs will get first opportunity.”