BATHURST BOUND?: Sam Carter, pictured in action during last year’s Rugby Championship match between the Australian Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks, could play at Bathurst’s Ashwood Park this October. Photo: GETTY IMAGES 072815carter
LAST year Bathurst rugby union fans were given a rare treat when the Wallabies came to town as part of their Bush 2 Bledisloe program and come this October, Australian representatives could once more grace the turf of Ashwood Park.
Former Wallabies skipper and current flanker Michael Hooper as well as Sam Carter and Matt Toomua are a chance to head to Bathurst as part of the 2015 National Rugby Championship season.
While the Wallabies’ 2015 World Cup pool matches run from late September through to October 11, which means the trio could be required in the United Kingdom instead of playing at Ashwood Park, if not selected in the national squad they should line up in Bathurst.
After the success of bringing games to country regions in last year’s inaugural season, officials have opted to do the same in 2015.
Bathurst’s Ashwood Park will act as host on October 17 when the NSW Country Eagles do battle with the North Harbour Rays.
In a bid to further promote both the competition and the sport, each team will have Wallabies representatives aligned to them this season.
Carter and Toomua will represent NSW Country Eagles while Hooper is set to line up with the Rays.
“Everybody involved in Australian rugby cannot wait until the second Buildcorp National Rugby Championship gets underway. The announcement of the allocation of our star Wallabies players to clubs in the NRC [National Rugby Championship] whets the appetite still further,” Rob Clarke, the general manager of professional rugby, said.
“Last year, without the NRC, Quade Cooper may well not have had the game time to impress the Wallabies’ management ahead of the 2014 Spring Tour had it not been for his starring role playing for Brisbane City in the competition. This gives a little snapshot underlining the importance of the competition in our pathways.
“I know for a fact that each player is looking forward to being a part of their respective NRC club. Coupled with the fact we’ll have hungry club players looking to impress and Super Rugby representatives going up against each other, this season is shaping up to be one to remember.”
Toomua, who has 23 Test caps playing in the centres for the Wallabies, was one player who enjoyed his trip to Bathurst last year.
“It’s great to be out here … I have never been out here before, so it’s pretty exciting,” he said.
“It is great to see fans that we don’t traditionally see outside of the city. Engaging the fans is a huge part of our job. We’ve got to ensure the health of the sport, so I think to get out here is great.”
Toomua only played six Super Rugby matches for the Brumbies in 2015, but was included in the Wallabies’ starting 15 for Sunday’s win over Argentina at Estadio Malvinas Argentinas in Mendoza.
Hooper came off the bench for that match and is now just seven Test matches away from reaching the 50-game milestone in the green and gold.
Carter, an aggressive and hard working lock, is the most likely of the three men to line up at Ashwood Park this October.
While he impressed when made his Test debut against France last year, a torn medial ligament and a small fracture suffered when playing Super Rugby for the ACT Brumbies in May means Carter has not yet contested a game in the 2015 Rugby Championship.
But even if Carter, Toomua and Hooper are all unavailable for the Bathurst match, local union fans are still likely to witness some very talented players in action.
Announcements in relation to other contracting arrangements, including players contracted to Super Rugby provinces, will be made in the weeks leading up to the National Rugby Championship kick-off on August 20.
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