Tim Horan is tipping the Western Force to mount a play to nick former Wallabies star James O’Connor in a bid to boost the team’s Super Rugby Pacific hopes in 2024.
On Tuesday, Rugby Australia confirmed Nic White had re-signed with the Wallabies and would move from the ACT Brumbies to the Western Force in the new year.
It’s the first sizeable signing for the Perth-based outfit under Simon Cron’s reign since he took charge of the team at the start of 2023.
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Now, O’Connor is in his sights to form an all-star fly-half pairing. However, the Queensland Reds incumbent mightn’t be available as soon as the Western Force would like.
“I hear they’re chasing James O’Connor hard and you imagine having a Nic White/James O’Connor/Hamish Stewart, that 9/10/12 combination,” Horan said on Stan Sport’s Rugby Heaven.
“James O’Connor, from what I’m hearing, wants to stay in Queensland for a couple of years, but imagine going back to the Western Force where he first started as a 17-year-old to finish his career at the Western Force.
“Simon Cron and the coaching staff are recruiting there. I actually think maybe there needs to be more in the salary cap for players to go west to try and keep the Western Force viable for the next five years plus.”
Former Wallabies players James Horwill and Justin Harrison said the addition of White to the Western Force will make the club a more enticing prospect.
“I think it does help, particularly for Australian-based players,” said Horwill.
“I think the Western Force have obviously had the ability and have had the dispensation to get a lot more international players, and I think moving forward they’re going to want to entice Australian-based Wallaby-eligible players to play in Perth and I think Nic does that.
“He’s that general. He demands the best from the guys around him and I even think even young guys coming through might like the opportunity over there and play with Nic.
Harrison added, “We know players go not necessarily for the highest contract, they go for good programs and excellence around them.
“We know that players take pay reductions; sometimes to go to the Brumbies to park themselves up behind other Wallaby players because they know they’ll go in and come out better.
“Now, what Cronny’s doing is a large part of that – ‘Come over here, I will maintain your current status as an international player, but I’ll also make you better’ – and the players around will see that as well and that will provoke it’s own sort of incentive.
“It’s not just about the best, biggest contract. Of course, there’s security and you need to be professional in your approach to that, but… the first question every player asks when they sit down to negotiate a contract is ‘tell me about your program, tell me about your squad you building, tell me about your vision’ and that’s really important’.”
Horan expects the Western Force will see a marked improvement from a “much better” team in their second or third year under Cron.
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