Sean McMahon has all but closed the door on the 2019 Rugby World Cup, confirming a looming move to Japan.
McMahon has signed a two-year deal with a Japanese club, though an official announcement has yet to be made on his destination, with the flanker leaving that in his new team’s hands.
The move has been heavily speculated for months and McMahon made no secret on social media that the Rebels loss to the Jaguares would be his final game for the side, but this is the first time he has spoken publicly about his departure.
He and wife Nia, who is a teacher in Queensland, are keen to broaden their horizons in a new country, but McMahon said it was no simple decision.
“We’ll be done with the Rebels at the end of this season and all I can say is I won’t be playing in Australia next year,” he said.
“It was a very big call to make.
“There was a few factors, a few personal ones and a few other issues I don’t really want to go into but it obviously was a big decision for my career and my personal life as well. Pretty happy with my decision and so is my wife as well.
“That’s what me and my wife Nia are looking forward to doing, is going over and experiencing something new.
“She loves to travel as well so it’s going to be something new for her as well.
A two-year contract would leave him open to a 2019 Rugby World Cup return, though McMahon said that seemed unlikely at this stage, given he will play no part in Australian rugby in the lead-up
McMahon featured in the 2015 tournament, a star in the matches in which he played, scoring a hat-trick against Uruguay
“If I want to come back, it’ll be a decision I’ll have to come back at that time,” he said.
“There’s still a chance, maybe down the track I might change my mind (about 2019).
“It was great to have the opportunity to play in the World Cup, not a lot of people get to do that.
“It’s an exciting time and having to pass that up definitely was a hard factor in the decision but it was a decision me and my wife wanted to do...and I’m pretty happy with it.”
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika spoke to McMahon about his potential departure but the 23-year-old had all but reconciled his decision by that point.
“We sat down and had a really good chat about staying and a lot of the elements of where things are going forward at the World Cup,” he said.
“At that stage it was probably just a tad too late in that instance but it definitely gave a lot (of reasons) for me to want to stay but in the end it was a choice I had to make.”
McMahon has found it hard to crack a regular Wallabies’ starting spot with Michael Hooper and David Pocock ahead of him and injuries plaguing him for the better part of the last 12 months, but he said he had only gratitude for the pair.
“‘Poey’ and ‘Hoops’ have taught me a hell of a lot, have pushed me to limits I probably haven’t been before, which pushed me to be a better athlete,” he said.
“So, as much as it was I probably didn’t get personally the run I wish I could’ve got but they’re great players to have learned and played with and I can’t thank them enough for what they’ve taught me along the way.”
McMahon won’t be seeking any kind of early Wallabies release before heading to Japan, playing out the year as long as the Test side needs him.
“I’ve always made sure that everything I do I do it 110 per cent and if that means going through to the end of the year and putting in my full effort, even if that’s only on the training paddock trying to push the boys to their absolute limits then that’s what I’ll do as a player and to make sure I finish my time here in Australia on a high,” he said.
“It’s been a bit of a tough year with injuries and that so I’m finally starting to get back to a bit of form with my running and my fitness.”
The Wallabies are in camp in Newcastle this week ahead of the August 19 Bledisloe Cup opener in Sydney. Buy tickets here.