Premiership Rugby Australia XV: The backs

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In the third of our series looking at the best overseas players to have appeared in England, James Barker compiles the Australia Premiership Rugby XV. This team features the Wallabies who’ve made the biggest impact in England. The forward pack has been selected so now it’s time to pick the backline.

Premiership Rugby Australia XV: the backs

  1. Matt Burke – Newcastle Falcons

The man who scored 25 points in the 1999 World Cup Final joined Newcastle Falcons in 2004. He had multiple offers from around the world but chose to join the man of the moment Johnny Wilkinson in the North East. Burke ended up becoming very popular at the Falcons, being named their Player of the Year and also becoming captain by 2007.

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The fullback racked up over 50 appearances at a time when Newcastle were bobbing around midtable, but they did reach a Challenge Cup semi-final. Sadly, Burke was forced to retire in 2008 after failing to recover from a knee injury.

  1. Chris Latham – Worcester Warriors

Slightly out of position, Chris Latham takes the first winger spot. It was a significant coup for Worcester to bring the Australian fullback to England in 2008, after he played in his third World Cup.

It is probably no coincidence that his time with the Warriors coincided with the emergence of Chris Pennell; the Worcester management were clear about Latham’s obvious talents and what he brought to the team.

Unfortunately, Worcester were relegated at the end of Latham’s second season so he elected not to stay for a third year. He had a playing spell in Japan, and become Head Coach of the Utah Warriors for the 2020 Major League Rugby season.

  1. Richard Tombs – Gloucester

Richard Tombs was one of the early overseas players to come over to England and he formed a formidable partnership with fellow southern hemisphere centre Terry Fanolua.  A member of the Wallaby 1991 World Cup squad,  Tombs only amassed five caps due to the competition of Tim Horan and Jason Little.

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However, over three seasons with Gloucester he established himself as first choice, missing only two league matches in two seasons. He was also part of the team who won back-to-back C&G Cups before retiring in 2000.

In 2018 he suffered a freak spinal injury playing football. Fortunately, Tombs has recovered enough to be able to start walking again.

  1. Tim Horan – Saracens

One of the Wallabies’ double World Cup winners, Tim Horan was named World Cup Player of the Tournament in 1999. So when Saracens signed him in 2000 it was a significant coup. Bristol had previously made an offer for Horan but he choice to remain an extra year at the Queensland Reds.

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Horan eventually stayed in London for three years before retiring and returning to Australia. He has won several accolades confirming him as a legend of Australian rugby.

  1. Kurtley Beale – Wasps

A one-season wonder in England but Beale was an important part of Wasps’ move to Coventry and their return to the top of the table. Reportedly paid around £750,000 to join Wasps, he was one of the flagship players signed to attract new supporters as the club relocated to the Midlands.

Beale has been a controversial figure for off-field and disciplinary matters but his time in England can be remembered for on-field achievements only. Wasps topped the table in 2016/17 and Beale scored some crucial tries; he scored in the Premiership semi-final but sadly went off injured, ruling him out of the final. This ended his time in England and he returned to the Waratahs in Australia.

  1. Chris Malone – Bath, Harlequins, London Irish

Chris Malone has in fact played for five Premiership teams in total, although his loan spell at Bristol and his time at his first English club Exeter were spent in the Championship. However his most successful spell was at Bath, for whom he played between 2002 and 2007. A very dependable goal-kicker, Malone made over 80 appearances despite stiff competition from Olly Barkley and Mike Catt for the 10 shirt over the years.Embed from Getty Images

Stints of two years apiece at Harlequins and London Irish followed, and Malone was part of some memorable Heineken Cup matches and relatively successful Premiership campaigns. He retired in 2011 and went into coaching in Sydney, eventually joining Daryl Gibson at the Waratahs.

  1. Nic White – Exeter Chiefs

Another Australian who has found home in Exeter, following Dean Mumm, Greg Holmes and others. He arrived in 2017 at the prime time of his career and he has helped take the Chiefs to the next level.  The often moustachoed nine is a classic scrum-half: mouthy, loud but with the skills to back it up. His kicking game behind the powerful Chiefs pack has been very important in their progress, particularly in Europe this season.

It was announced in May 2019 that he would be leaving for the Brumbies in 2020. This move allowed him to play in the World Cup. Therefore it’s quite possible he’s already played his last game for Exeter if coronavirus restrictions cannot be lifted anytime soon.

Replacements

Also worthy of a mention for their time in England is:

  • Ben Meehan – London Irish
  • Shane Drahm – Bristol, Northampton Saints, Worcester Warriors
  • Taqele Naiyaravoro – Northampton Saints
  • Matt Toomua – Leicester Tigers
  • Rob Horne – Northampton Saints
  • James O’Connor – London Irish, Sale Sharks

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