Hot on the heels of landing former Melbourne Rebels five-eighth Danny Cipriani for next season, Wasps have made an audacious attempt to bring David Pocock to the Premiership, in a potential deal that would make the Wallabies and Brumbies flanker the highest paid rugby player in the world.
Pocock, whose contract with the Australian Rugby Union expires at the end of the year, is expected to make a decision on his future in the next couple of weeks. The 27-year-old is considering taking a sabbatical from rugby to study at an overseas university, but is understood to be open to the possibility of playing in England, having enjoyed his time in the country during the World Cup.
Wasps have already put feelers out to his representatives and have indicated that they would offer him a package in excess of the £1.4 million ($2.8 million) that Racing 92 are paying World Cup-winning five-eighth Dan Carter.
Pocock is seen as the perfect replacement for George Smith, who is leaving the club at the end of the season. The veteran Australian openside has been a revelation this season and has been brought in by England head coach Eddie Jones to advise on breakdown play.
Pocock, though, is the pre-eminent turnover specialist in world rugby, as England found to their cost in their group-stage elimination by the Wallabies.
Signing Pocock would send the clearest signal of intent that owner Derek Richardson wants to catapult Wasps into the elite band of European clubs. There is still a long way to go to make that a reality.
However, it is understood that Wasps stand a far better chance than the host of French clubs, who have previously made similar offers. It would also only be a short-term deal, as Pocock intends to play in the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
The feelgood factor has only been enhanced by the capture of Cipriani, their prodigal son, yesterday. Despite interest from Harlequins and Toulon, Cipriani returned to his boyhood club on a three-year deal worth an estimated £400,000 ($804,220) a year, after activating a break clause in his Sale contract.
Although Toulon offered a more lucrative package, a move to France would have ended the 28-year-old’s England ambitions, which still burn brightly, despite the fact he is third in line behind George Ford and Owen Farrell.
Cipriani will return to the club where he first made his name as a teenager, starting in the 2007 Heineken Cup final before going on to make his England debut in 2008.
“I’m excited about returning to Wasps next season,” Cipriani said.
“For me, it really does feel like coming home. In the professional era, players naturally move clubs more frequently than they used to, but I still feel such a strong connection with Wasps. It’s where I learnt my trade, alongside incredible players like Lawrence Dallaglio.”
“I have such good memories of that period in my life. I feel much more equipped to handle and deal with the expectation that comes when you put on the black and gold jersey. There’s something about Wasps which always draws you in.
“‘Once a Wasp, always a Wasp’ is more than just a saying when you’ve been part of the club. I feel next season will be the right time for a new challenge, at a club which, in my heart, will always feel like a second home, where I know I will settle quickly.”-canberratimes.com.