The Australian Rugby Union has locked away two key members of the Qantas Wallabies forward pack with the re-signing of experienced Queensland Reds duo James Slipper and Rob Simmons.
The signatures of the talented tight-five pair are significant for the future of Australian Rugby with Slipper agreeing to a new three-year deal through until the end of 2018, while Simmons has also inked a multi-year extension through until the end of 2017.
Despite their young age of just 25, Slipper and Simmons have already accumulated a combined 113 total Tests for Australia and both hold leadership positions for either the Wallabies or Reds.
Slipper was appointed vice-captain of the Wallabies at the beginning of the 2015 Test season and has since gone on to be elevated to captain of the Reds this year, with Simmons also the vice-captain of the Queensland-based province.
Qantas Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said it was pleasing to see the pair sign long-term deals.
“These are two really significant contract extensions for Australian Rugby. You can never have enough talented tight-five forwards, and James and Rob have already shown an ability to play their positions at a world class level,” Cheika said.
“Their re-signings give me a lot of confidence moving forward with the Wallabies program, and I am currently quite pleased with the overall level of talent we have had commit to Australian Rugby beyond this year.
“We have a lot of players now locked away on multi-year deals, and when you combine that with those we are yet to announce and those players who have shown a genuine interest in returning to Australia from overseas, I’m very comfortable with how the future is looking.”
Slipper said signing a long-term contract extension with Australian Rugby was always his preferred option.
“There is no doubt we are entering an exciting period with the World Cup in September, but overall I’ve got full confidence that the Test program is heading in the right direction and is setup for a lot of success in the years ahead,” Slipper said.
“The Wallabies are the pinnacle and wearing the jersey really does mean a lot to me. You never know when the journey is going to end, so you have to make the most of it while the opportunity exists.
“I’m also really passionate about the Reds and have really enjoyed the additional leadership responsibilities this year. There has been some tough times, but we’re all working extremely hard to turn our fortunes around, and I want to be part of that when it happens.”
Simmons said it was also important for him to remain with Australian Rugby.
“You never take the Wallabies jersey for granted, so for me right now I’m just working hard on my return from injury and trying to do everything I can to play well for the Reds,” Simmons said.
“That’s my immediate focus and if all goes well, I’ll hopefully get another opportunity to represent Australia later this year. That’s everyone’s ultimate goal – to play at a World Cup for the Wallabies – so I’ve just got to continue to work hard to put my hand up for selection.”
Place of Birth: Gold Coast, Queensland
Province: Queensland Reds
Super Rugby Caps: 74
Super Rugby Debut: 2010 v Waratahs, Brisbane
Test Caps: 63
Test Debut: 2010 v England, Perth
Place of Birth: Theodore, Queensland
Province: Queensland Reds
Super Rugby Caps: 83
Super Rugby Debut: 2009 v Bulls, Pretoria
Test Caps: 50
Test Debut: 2010 v South Africa, Brisbane