ARU faces tough call on Douglas

The Australian Rugby Union will have to either pay out Kane Douglas’s Irish contract or break their own eligibility rules to recall the former Wallabies second-rower ahead of the World Cup.

Douglas is understood to be seeking a release from Irish club Leinster to join the Queensland Reds next season but time is of the essence if he is to also answer a late SOS from Australia coach Michael Cheika.

Hours after Cheika told reporters on the Sunshine Coast that he had “heard noise” about Douglas’s desire to return to Australian rugby, Leinster confirmed they had received a formal request from the ARU last week that the 26-year-old be released for international duty in accordance with regulation nine.

The trouble is that Douglas has only 14 Test caps to his name – well below the 60 caps and seven years of service required under the ARU’s new eligibility rules introduced this year.

Given the fanfare with which they were announced, it is unfathomable that the ARU would change those rules so soon after creating them.

The only way for Douglas to become immediately available for Wallabies selection is for him to sign a contract for next season with an Australian Super Rugby club.

For that to happen, Leinster is reportedly asking for a release fee close to $370,000, a sum even greater than what Toulon is demanding to let go of Quade Cooper.

“We have been in discussions with the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) and with Kane for a few weeks now and we have made our position very clear,” Leinster team manager Guy Easterby said in a club statement, released overnight.

“Kane is contracted to Leinster Rugby for another two seasons and we look forward to welcoming him back when his commitments with the ARU come to an end.”

The Queensland Rugby Union declined to comment, but it’s believed Douglas will only return to play for the Reds so he can be closer to his Gold Coast-based family and brother Luke, who plays for the NRL’s Titans.

Douglas would be an ideal replacement for James Horwill, who will play in England next year, while the Wallabies could do with his nous at lock, where Cheika’s options are limited.

Wallabies assistant coach Nathan Grey confirmed Douglas is “on the radar” but said it is now up to the player to sort out his contractual situation.

“If Kane Douglas has the desire to come back, we’d be crazy not to look at him,” he said.

“If he’s available it’s up to him to try and get that organised and rock up to training, throw his hat in the ring and see how he goes.

“We’ll hopefully find out what’s going to be happening over the next couple of weeks.”

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