Wallabies flyhalf Bernard Foley became the first player to embark on his flexible ARU contract, heading to Japanese club Ricoh Black Rams on Tuesday.
Coming off his best international season yet, where he played a critical role in the Wallabies’ run to a World Cup final, Foley will begin the first of two short-term stints in the Japanese Top League as part of the new contract, keeping him a part of the Wallabies fold until at least 2018.
Foley is one of three Wallabies to have signed a flexible contract, allowing him leave to play in the Japanese Top League during Australian summer, before returning to the NSW Waratahs ahead of the 2016 Super Rugby season.
Foley will have roughly a month off rugby over 2015-16, between his Super Rugby season, World Cup campaign and the Japanese season this year, leading into his 2016 Super Rugby campaign.
At the time of Foley’s contract announcement in May, he thanked his respective clubs and the ARU for its understanding.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said at the time that Foley’s well-being would be at the forefront of his mind.
“Flexible contracting is taken into consideration for exceptional circumstances, and I am confident that he will put his own well-being at the front of his priorities and thinking.” Cheika said.
“Bernard is a playmaker who is still yet to reach his full potential and we need our best players eligible for Australia – now and in the future.
“Bernard is one of many playmakers in Australian Rugby that will be vying for a Wallabies jumper over the next period.
“This is the environment we will be creating - where players can challenge one another and ultimately make the Wallabies program stronger.”