Former Wallabies lock Justin Harrison has bid ‘au revoir’ to France after an eight-year stint to return home to Australia and take over as new general manager of the Classic Wallabies.
Harrison replaces Stephen Hoiles, who has moved on to become an assistant coach of the Australian Men’s Sevens program.
Harrison told RUGBY.com.au he and his family are delighted to be back amongst the Australian rugby family, and the 34-Test lock says he’ll be firmly focused on addressing the gap between players' professional careers and their life after rugby in 2019.
“We’ve got a very romantic period when you’re enticed to come and play rugby," Harrison said.
“Then you have the performance in the arena where you’re paid appropriately to play in front of the community, but we haven’t really got that end story right yet and that’s what we’re addressing.
“We’re looking at making sure that, that transition from sporting excellence and national representation right down through to club presence and community presence is a seamless transition.”
Harrison made his debut for the Wallabies in 2001, and retired in 2009. He moved into coaching in France and teamed up with Chris Whitaker for several seasons at Narbonne.
Harrison said he is keen to harness the "golden thread" connecting all ex-Wallabies players to continue the Classics' ever-increasing work in the community, where they play exhibition games, hold kids' clinics and generally spread the good word about rugby.
There will be a welcome addition to the Classics this year, too, with the Classic Wallaroos to be launched on the 9th of February in Brisbane.
A side including ex-players like Ash Hewson, Jacqui Cutts and Mollie Gray will play for the first time in rugby 10s game against the Brothers women’s team.
“That’s a huge advancement in recognition of what happens in the sporting arena and the sacrifices that are required to reach some sort of elite performance," Harrison said.
“The Classic Wallaroos women’s rugby is one of the fastest growing sports in the world at the moment and we are producing some outstanding athletes, but we are also affecting people’s lives so we need to make sure that everyone is engaged, and everyone feels a part of something worthwhile.”