Mortlock commits to Australian Rugby

Wallabies World Cup skipper Stirling Mortlock has knocked back a reported substantial Japanese offer to stay in Australian rugby until the end of the 2010 season.

The powerful outside-centre, recovering from shoulder surgery, said Thursday he has signed a new deal and was looking forward to playing under new Wallabies’ coach Robbie Deans later in the year.

Last month there were reports an unnamed Japanese club was prepared to pay one million US dollars a year for Mortlock’s services.

Mortlock’s decision to stay is a massive confidence boost for Australian rugby after the loss of fullback Chris Latham to English Premiership side Worcester and the international retirements of senior halves, George Gregan and Stephen Larkham.

“This was a significant decision for me and my family,” Mortlock said in an Australian Rugby Union statement.

“We’ve taken our time to deliberate because there’s every chance this contract will see me out as a player. I was always keen to stay in Australia.

“Obviously, there was interest from overseas and that can always present a new challenge.

“But I’m just really happy to say I’m now committed to playing in Australia until the end of 2010.” Mortlock said a significant factor in re-signing with the ARU was the appointment of Deans and the emergence of fresh talent in the provincial and international ranks.

“The (World Cup) script didn’t go according to plan in France last year, but I feel as though moving forward there are great opportunities awaiting the game in Australia,” he said.

ARU managing director John O’Neill said it was important to keep Mortlock’s experience in Australian rugby.

“We’re in a period when Australian rugby has said goodbye, or is preparing to farewell, some of its longest-serving stars,” O’Neill said.

“So to know we still have Stirling on board for this season, and the two years to follow, is a comforting thought.”


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