SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia’s post-World Cup exodus is already in motion with former captain James Horwill and utility back Adam Ashley-Cooper confirming they will join European clubs after next year’s global showpiece.
Horwill, a 29-year-old lock capped 58 times for the Wallabies, has signed a three-year deal with London club Harlequins, while 30-year-old Ashley-Cooper will join Top 14 club Bordeaux on a two-year contract.
“As hard as it will be to leave Ballymore, my team mates, the staff and all my fans and friends in Queensland, I’ve been offered a fantastic opportunity with Harlequins to experience rugby in another part of the world and this is right for me at this stage of my rugby career,” Horwill, who led the Queensland Reds to the 2011 Super Rugby title, said in a Harlequins statement.
“I‘m completely committed to helping the Reds and Australia achieve success in this World Cup year and then I’ll turn my attention to the next chapter of my life in rugby with Harlequins.”
Horwill has struggled to cement a place in the Wallabies’ starting 15 in recent seasons, but the versatile Ashley-Cooper, who can play centre, wing or fullback, will leave a large hole in the Wallabies backline.
“I look forward to participating in the future of the club after the World Cup 2015 (and) I am extremely grateful for my career in Australia and I want to thank the ARU and the Waratahs for their support over the past decade,” said Ashley-Cooper, who celebrated his 100th cap for the Wallabies last season.
The pair will join a long list of Wallabies emigres already plying their trade in Europe, including lock Kane Douglas, backrower Ben Mowen and Matt Giteau.
More seasoned internationals from both the Wallabies and New Zealand’s All Blacks are expected to take up lucrative contracts abroad after the World Cup in England.
Both Australia and New Zealand maintain selection policies that preclude players based offshore from playing for the national sides.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Napier and Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Ed Osmond/Greg Stutchbury