Michael Cheika didn’t let Wallabies back Rob Horne leave Australia without a fight.
Horne signed a three-year deal with UK Premiership side Northampton this week, a move that surprised Cheika.
“I tried every tactic I could in the book underhand and overhand for him to stay, because he's been a player who has not let us down ever, in relation to both at state level when representing his state and also from Australia,” he said.
“I won't lie, I was surprised that he wanted to (go at) the peak at his career and I'm surprised that he did go, he chose in the end, but at the end of the day that's what we're dealing with.
Cheika said he was resigned to losing out at least some of the time to European clubs flush with funds, with the financial limitations of Australian rugby.
“We're dealing with teams with a lot of cash, a lot of money and we know what our realities are and we've got to operate within those and I think the days of operating outside of those are over," he said.
“We're trying to be really...smart with how we operate in that way. - Michael Cheika
“We did our best and it was a really good, fair negotiation and he's a player who has never let Australia down, given 110% and I'm sure he will this year both for New South Wales and for Australia and that will leave him with some good memories before he heads away.”
Horne is not the only recent Wallaby on the move, with Matt Giteau recently confirming a shift from Toulon to Japan.
Despite reports linking Giteau to a Brumbies return, Cheika said he didn’t expect the 103-Test Wallabies veteran to play in Australia again.
“I think probably a move he decided around starting to prepare his post-rugby life as well.
“If you talk to (Suntory and Queensland Reds backrower) George Smith, he'll tell you you can play good footy there and also prepare yourself for post-rugby as well.
“‘Gits’ would be really keen to make sure he's in a good space once footy finishes. He's well aware you can only play footy for a certain amount of time.” - Michael Cheika
It’s a different story for winger Drew Mitchell, in Brisbane for the Tens, who has made his intention to come home very clear.
“I think he's still got aspirations of coming home to play and to play at the top level, once he can get himself back and fit,” Cheika said.
“I think he's going to have a run this week in the Tens so we'll see where he's at there and if he's got a mindset where he wants to come back here and play, I'd certainly encourage him to do that.