SYDNEY (AP) — Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says he will ensure all players who lose their jobs when one of Australia's five Super Rugby teams is cut from the competition next season are absorbed by the four remaining teams.
Cheika told the Sydney Morning Herald Friday that he is working with the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) high performance manager Ben Whitaker to ensure none of Australia's top players is forced to go overseas to continue their careers.
The ARU is likely to suspend its salary cap for one season to allow the four surviving Super Rugby teams to absorb additional players in 2018. Cheika said with retirements and the departure of foreign players, the number of players looking for new teams would be manageable.
The ARU has yet to decide whether the Perth-based Western Force or Melbourne Rebels will be cut and have asked both clubs to present business plans before that decision is made. The Force is seeking an injunction to prevent their removal and the privately-owned Rebels might also pursue legal action.
"No-one's going to be told to go anywhere," Cheika said. "What will happen is a round table to say 'what are we going to do with this group of players' and how (they) are going to be reallocated.
"The player will always have a choice on what he wants to do.
"I don't think the numbers will be huge. It will be more about giving them certainty about their futures."
Australia has about 175 contracted Super Rugby Players of whom around 25 typically move on at the end of each season. Cheika said he expected only a handful of players would not find places with the ACT Brumbies, New South Wales Waratahs, Queensland Reds and the other surviving team.
"The idea is that we try to make sure everyone comes out in the best situation they possibly can," he said. "That's important to me because even at the national level that doubt can have a knock-on effect on performances from a mental perspecitive."
Cheika said the restoration of the $5 million salary cap after a transition period next year would ensure no team recruited a disproportionate number of top players from the Force or Rebels. He said he would personally intervene to ensure no top player ended up without a contract.
"If there was one case where it did happen and I thought he was a player that would end up playing for Australia we'd sign him anyway and work it out later," Cheika said. "We can't let our good players go."