Len Ikitau and Tom Wright set to remain in Super Rugby in boost to World Cup preparation, Nic White, James Slipper future, analysis
In a coup for Australian rugby, Wallabies star Len Ikitau is set to stay at the Brumbies through to the British and Irish Lions in 2025.
The Roar also understands that his Brumbies and national teammate, Tom Wright, is moving closer to a deal to stay in Australian rugby, too.
Both backs have become mainstays in the Wallabies in recent years, with Wright the incumbent Test fullback and Ikitau one of Australia’s first-picked players.
A new Contract Bargaining Agreement, which is set to be announced imminently, teething problems with who is the head honcho calling the shots as Wallabies head coach had slowed down contract negotiations with dozens of players.
Slowly but surely Rugby Australia is getting its ducks in a row, with the looming Lions series proving vital in keeping Australia’s premier talent in Super Rugby.
There had been fears that Ikitau, whose contract had been small by comparison to others given his rapid rise over the past three years, would look to go overseas.
Even now, Ikitau still harbours the desire to play overseas but The Roar understands he is set to sign a two-year extension that will keep the 24-year-old at the Brumbies through to the end of 2025.
While the Brumbies and Rugby Australia were keen on re-signing him on a longer deal, Ikitau is keeping his options open for 2026 before wanting to feature in a home World Cup in 2027.
His rise is one of the real success stories of Australian rugby.
After playing just a handful of minutes for the Brumbies in 2020, Dave Rennie included the outside centre in his squad for The Rugby Championship.
Although he didn’t originally feature, it didn’t take him long to grab hold of the No.13 jersey and keep it.
Deceptively strong, capable of offloading, possessing a strong left-foot kick and excellent in defence, Ikitau was one of Rennie’s first picked and looks set to feature prominently under Eddie Jones.
His impending re-signing puts months of uncertainty behind, having been moving towards the deal since last winter.
It’s understood, too, that Wright’s contract negotiations have had a breakthrough, much to the relief of both parties. The 25-year-old remains an exciting proposition for the Wallabies and his playmaking ability and turn of pace has him firmly in the mix to start at the 2023 World Cup.
On Saturday, News Corp wrote tensions were starting to build about the lack of action regarding player retention particularly given the constant murmurings regarding potential NRL recruits and the recent loss of 31-year-old Pete Samu to France.
“The rugby players in general are sick of hearing about it,” Wright’s player agent David Rawlings told News Corp.
“A lot of the boys are thinking, if they want NRL players, we’ll have to look elsewhere. It’s become a debacle.
“They’ve just lost Pete Samu to Bordeaux, who’s been in the rugby system for a long time.
“They’ll lose others as well if this keeps up and they only want to talk about NRL players.”
Rawlings added: “We’re sitting here waiting to get a deal done after the World Cup.
“This is the current Wallaby fullback yet they’re talking about all the NRL players and million-dollar offers.
“What about looking after your own. Loyalty works both ways. Look at the sacrifices the players have made in rugby. They all took a 50 per cent pay cut during Covid and didn’t get it paid back like the league guys did.”
While there is a fascination around Rugby Australia’s NRL hit list, most aren’t concerned about it impacting clients nor Australia’s current playing stocks.
Reports of RA offering Sea Eagles flyer and former Newington College star Toluta’u Koula $800,000 are understood to be wildly off the mark.
Nor is former Schoolboys sensation Cameron Murray a realistic signing over the next two years either, with the Rabbitohs captain signed through until 2025.
The Brumbies are hoping that Rugby Australia will come to the party and offer Wallabies captain James Slipper, 33, and Nic White, 32, new deals.
White, who returned from Exeter on a big deal following the 2019 World Cup, last year expressed his desire to play through until the British and Irish Lions series, while Slipper’s career has likely been extended by sharing the duties with Scott Sio, who left the Brumbies last year.
Both men are set to be offered reduced deals, but stand to play important roles through until the Lions series.
White is set to feature under Jones this year at the World Cup and there is a gap between the top two halfbacks in Australia and the rest. Exciting young prospects like Teddy Wilson are only in their first year of Super Rugby.
Slipper, too, could prove invaluable in guiding the next generation of loose-head props through at the Brumbies, including Blake Schoupp. Angus Bell, who could challenge Slipper for a starting spot this year, continues to be haunted by foot injuries.