(Corrects name of Sean McMahon in second para)
MELBOURNE Feb 10 Wallabies openside flanker Liam Gill is heading overseas to play in France at the end of the Super Rugby season in a blow for the ailing Queensland Reds and Australian rugby.
The highly-rated 23-year-old has been linked with a move Top 14 side Toulon, having been shut out of Australia's back row for the last two years by David Pocock, Michael Hooper and latterly Sean McMahon.
A shining light for the Reds last year in an otherwise gloomy season, Gill would join Wallabies Quade Cooper, Matt Giteau, Drew Mitchell and James O'Connor at the French side owned by comic book tycoon Mourad Boudjellal.
With Gill, who was capped 15 times for the Wallabies from 2012-13, missing out on a national contract and the salary top-up afforded to Wallabies players, the Reds admitted they were unable to compete at the negotiating table.
"He has international aspirations but plays in a position in which Australia have significant depth and he felt he would have limited Wallaby opportunities," general manager Daniel Herbert said in a statement.
"Whilst we are disappointed to see him go, there are limitations to what we are currently able to do if players garner overseas interest and aren't in the top band of Wallabies."
Overseas-based players with fewer than 60 test caps are not allowed to play test rugby under Australian Rugby Union (ARU) rules aimed at retaining local talent.
Gill's move would therefore make him ineligible to play for the Wallabies from 2017, at a time when Pocock might also be unavailable for selection.
Pocock, whose contract with Canberra-based Super Rugby side ACT Brumbies expires at the end of the season, has expressed an interest in taking a year-long sabbatical to study.
However, Gill's departure has also fuelled media speculation that Pocock could head north to shore up the Reds pack along with Wallabies captain Stephen Moore, who has already announced he is Brisbane-bound in 2017.
The Brumbies, who were furious at losing hooker Moore, said on Wednesday that contract negotiations with Pocock were far from over.
"It creates all sorts of problems if Poey takes a break," Brumbies chief executive Michael Jones told News Ltd media of the proposed sabbatical.
"My preferred solution, and our offer to him, doesn't allow a break." (Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)