SYDNEY (Reuters) - Former Wallabies prop Pek Cowan had only one thought when the Western Force were included in the domestic Super Rugby AU competition - he was coming home to play for the only professional Australian side he had ever known.
Cowan was a foundation member of the Force in 2006 and only left when the team was controversially dumped from Super Rugby in 2017. He has been playing in Japan since then.
The novel coronavirus outbreak, however, forced rugby to shut down globally before Rugby Australia was able to organise their own domestic competition and invited the Force to join their existing four sides.
Cowan jumped at the chance to add to his 130 caps for the Perth-based team.
“As soon as I heard that we might have the opportunity to play Super Rugby again I thought there was no other team I would love to be a part of,” Cowan told reporters on Wednesday.
“There’s a lot of emotion attached to a team that means a lot to me.”
The 34-year-old had to spend two weeks in quarantine and he acknowledged he was probably not quite ready to play on Saturday against the competition favourite ACT Brumbies.
“I haven’t been able to do a lot of the sessions just getting back but just watching the boys out there ... you can feel they want to do their best,” he said.
“That’s something again that I’m really looking forward to being a part of.”
Playing in front of home fans in a few weeks, if travel restrictions allow for it, was also a spur for Cowan’s return.
“I know ... our supporters, the sea of blue, they’re sitting there waiting for us to get home,” he said.
“For me, that would just be the ultimate for me to be able to chuck the jumper on and play there.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman