ARU CEO Bill Pulver says the organisation is keeping an open mind in negotiations with Wallabies star David Pocock.
Pulver confirmed on Wednesday that Pocock had thrown the possibility of a one-year sabbatical into negotiations but said discussions were ongoing.
“David Pocock is one of the world’s best players, if not the world’s best player but suffice to say we are very eager to keep him in Australian Rugby.
“We believe he wants to stay in Australian Rugby so those discussions are ongoing.”
“That is in the mix. I want to make sure I keep the negotiation process with David a private process and we’ll inform the world of the outcome when it’s done.”
Former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw is one high profile player who has taken leave from the game during his career, though for only six months, and Pulver said they would potentially explore many possibilities on the sabbatical spectrum.
“Frankly we’re open to any option but it’s got to be a balanced outcome that is right for the player, right for the Super Rugby club and right for Australian Rugby Union,” he said.
“We don’t rule anything out, we keep an open mind and we’ll work through these situations on a one to one basis.”
With big money offers coming for players from Europe and Japan, Pulver said the Wallabies environment created by Michael Cheika would play a critical role in retaining players.
“We operate in a sport where markets like France and the UK and japan, through really outstanding broadcast agreements have the capacity to pay players and coaches substantially more than we can,” he said.
“So if we combat that by trying to create an environment here which is such a wonderful environment they want to be a part of it.
“We think that’s what Michael Cheika’s doing with the Wallabies.”
While Pulver expressed his eagerness to work with Pocock, he said he was more disappointed with the revelation that Reds flanker Liam Gill would be leaving for France at the end of the season, given he is just 23.
“I don’t want any of our high profile players leaving the country. The reality is it will happen,” he said.
“We don’t like to see the young and up and coming guys go.
“I don’t want to see the 23-year-olds go and play in the northern hemisphere. They should be here in Australia helping us develop their game.”
Pulver spoke to the media at the announcement of a new partnership with BMW, with the auto manufacturer sponsoring the entire development pathway.
“It’s really exciting and we’re very fortunate to have BMW Australia as a sponsor,” he said.
“They support Rugby Union around the world.
“This will have a positive impact on our development pathway and it is a great development for Australian Rugby.”