3 Jun 2016

Wallabies prop heading home

3:08 pm on 3 June 2016

Wallabies prop Sekope Kepu has been released from the last two years of his contract by Bordeaux-Begles to allow him to return to Australia for "family reasons", the French club said.



The 30-year-old tighthead, who was part of the front row that did much to repair the reputation of Australia's scrum at last year's World Cup, signed a three-year deal to move to the Top 14 club last year.

"President Laurent Marti and Sekope Kepu have today agreed to cancel the contract that runs until June 2018," Bordeaux-Begles said in a statement on their website.

"This resolution was entered into after a request from the player to return to Australia for family reasons. The two parties part on very good terms and we wish Sekope Kepu good luck with the rest of his career."

Kepu is in camp with the Wallabies preparing for the June test series against England, qualifying under the "Giteau Rule" that allows players with more than 60 caps to continue representing Australia despite being based overseas.

The 63-cap Wallaby played eight seasons for the New South Wales Waratahs before his departure for France and there will be no shortage of Australian Super Rugby franchises lining up to secure his signature.

Kepu's front row combination with hooker Stephen Moore and loosehead Scott Sio gave Australia a stability up front they had not enjoyed for years as they won the Rugby Championship and reached the World Cup final last season.

Meanwhile the Western Force's short-term future in Perth has been secured after signing up to an alliance deal with the Australian Rugby Union.

The agreement has been signed after several weeks of negotiations, and is set to last until at least the next broadcast agreement, which is four years away.

The ARU hopes the alliance will help the Super Rugby franchise turn around their financial woes, with the aim of turning the Force into a profitable enterprise.

Under the agreement, the ARU will integrate the professional rugby programme of the Western Force into the high-performance unit of the ARU.

But the future of coach Michael Foley remains up in the air.

Foley has one more year to run on his existing deal, but his position will be reviewed at the end of the season.

Western Force chief executive Mark Sinderberry said turning around the club's on-field fortunes would play a key role in helping the franchise become profitable.

He said having access to the ARU's high-performance unit would be critical in achieving on-field success and "regaining support from the WA community".

"Those people are still there, and they all still love their rugby. And they're still supporting the game in various forms," Sinderberry said.

"So it's not a huge step for us to take to regain those levels of support in the past. But we do need to start producing on the field."

ARU chief executive Bill Pulver hopes the deal will help the Force flourish.

"Ultimately, the alliance aims to deliver financial sustainability and improved high-performance outcomes for the Western Force," Pulver said.

"The other really important outcome is that the Western Force will continue to be deeply entrenched in the Perth community. They will continue to have a brand which is unique to them."