Will Skelton is going back to Saracens and this time it’s for real, with a two-year deal rather than an injury replacement gig.
Skelton played for the reigning Aviva Premiership winners at the start of 2017, after missing much of last year with injury.
The UK club was impressed with Skelton during that stint, sparking rumours of a more permanent stint, that has eventuated with the club’s official announcement on Tuesday night.
Saracens director of rugby, Mark McCall, said there was plenty of potential in the 24-year-old, 18-Test Wallabies lock.
“We’re absolutely delighted that Will is returning,” he said.
“In a very short space of time here his contribution to the side was superb, he showed a real appetite to improve his game and he was very popular among all the players and staff.
“There’s still so much more to come from him, which is incredibly exciting for us as he is already a proven international player so we’re looking forward to welcoming him back later this year.”
Skelton said his choice had not been easy, having played his entire senior rugby career in Sydney.
“I am very excited to be returning to Saracens. This time around I am signing a longer-term deal, so it's been a really big decision and one I haven't made lightly,” he said.
“It's not easy leaving the NSW Waratahs and the Wallabies - Daryl Gibson and Michael Cheika have been fantastic for my career so far and I want to thank them for everything they have done for me, on and off the field."
Skelton also said he hoped 18 Tests would not be where his Wallabies journey stopped, and a two-year deal would give him a chance to return to Super Rugby ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
“Not being able to pull on the gold jersey while I am playing in England has made the decision especially difficult, but this is about family as much as it is football,” he said.
“One day I'd love to play for Australia again and if that opportunity comes up I will give everything I've got for my country.
“My wife Kate and I are looking forward to working and living on the other side of the world, and everything that brings.”
Skelton’s departure comes after the re-signing of fellow national team locks Sam Carter, Rory Arnold and Adam Coleman.
His move puts the Waratahs in an intriguing spot when it comes to locks, with Dean Mumm having signed just a one-year deal in 2016.
Dave McDuling, Ned Hanigan, who has been playing in the blindside role in recent weeks, and last year’s Australia U20s lock Ryan McCauley are among the others in their stocks.
Gibson kept the door open for a potential Waratahs return for Skelton.
“Will loves his rugby and he is one of those players who gives it all for the team," he said in a statement.
"My best memory of him is his bullet run to set up winning try 2014 Super Rugby semi final against Brumbies that got us through to the final.
“I understand the opportunity to experience a different type of rugby and gain new experiences is something that is appealing to him.
"We hope to see him back here again and know he is determined to finish on a high with the NSW Waratahs."