Australian rugby circles were abuzz as it emerged that French cult rugby figure Sebastien Chabal was headed down under for the next stage of his career.
But rather than head to the Waratahs or Melbourne’s Rebels, reports claimed last night that Chabal would play a one-off game for Balmain – in Sydney’s second division suburban comp.
The France international, nicknamed the Caveman, parted ways with Top 14 Parisian side Racing Metro earlier this month, citing a communication breakdown with Metro coach Pierre Berbizier.
He floated the possibility of playing in Australia, England, Japan or elsewhere in France a week ago, but yesterday told French radio station RMC that he had narrowed the list further.
”I will tell you a little secret, I will play in Australia soon. That’s all I can tell you today,” he said.
”For now, no more information. Neither the identity of a club, or duration of contract or even the nature of the championship.”
The 34-year-old also posted a cryptic message on Twitter yesterday, saying: ”Koalas ou Kangourous?”, which translates as ”Koalas or kangaroos?”.
The statement was widely construed as an indication Chabal was in talks to join a Super Rugby team, but Balmain president Warren Livingstone went public in one interview yesterday, revealing his star recruit. Mr Livingstone said of his star recruit: ”We looked for the biggest profile player in the world and that’s Chabal.”
Chabal’s appearance, set to be against Petersham next week, comes after Wallabies Drew Mitchell and Matt Giteau both played in the club’s black and gold jersey last year.
Chabal was said to be the highest-paid player in the world when he joined Racing in 2009 on a reported €1 million-a-year deal.
There is no doubt his signing would be a boon for the marketing and memberships departments in any Australian franchise.
Earlier Queensland coach Ewen McKenzie had to deny the Reds were talking to Chabal, as did Brumbies chief executive Andrew Fagan. A spokesman for Western Force said the French player had not approached the club, nor had they approached him.
The Waratahs were also not in contact with Chabal, a spokeswoman said as rumours swirled about his arrival. NSW has already filled its quota of overseas players, the latest of whom is marquee signing Sarel Pretorius from the Cheetahs.
NRL club South Sydney were in talks with Chabal in 2008 but signed Sam Burgess instead.
”We’re pretty happy with that decision,” Rabbitohs chief executive Shane Richardson said yesterday, adding that the club had no further interest in the Frenchman.
There were reports Chabal’s shock departure from Racing followed a heated exchange with coach Berbizier.
Chabal, who was not picked in France’s Rugby World Cup squad last year, had been in negotiations with Racing about a new contract since the end of last year.
A statement from the club made on February 2 said Chabal and club president Jacky Lorenzetti had argued over the club’s ”sporting strategy” and had agreed to ”leave on good terms”
– Sydney Morning Herald