He hasn’t worn the Wallabies jersey but the departure of lock Hugh Pyle will leave a big hole in Australian rugby according to Melbourne Rebels skipper Scott Higginbotham.
Pyle, 25, will leave the Rebels at the end of the Super Rugby season to take up a lucrative two-year deal playing in France.
He was on the fringes of Test selection last year before a shoulder injury cruelled his chances, and was told to add more carries to his game.
Set to become only the second player to win 50 Rebels caps when he plays against the Highlanders on Friday night, Pyle has done just that and has been one of the team’s best this season.
Wallabies backrower Higginbotham said there wasn’t a lot of young locks coming through.
Of the current Test crop James Horwill is 28 and Sitaleki Timani 27, while Kane Douglas and Rob Simmons are 24 but there weren’t many other young contenders pushing for selection.
“I think it’s a big loss for Australian rugby and it’s a big loss for us at the Rebels,” Higginbotham said.
“I think he’s quite young, but having the talent that he has he could play over there for a couple of years and come back.”
Higginbotham said the financial benefits of playing in Europe was no secret and it was something that all players, in the Test squad or not, found hard to pass up.
“Whether you’re a fringe player or you’re right in the mix of everything it’s about personal preference and where you are in your life,” he said.
“You’ve got to make the most of your time in the game.”
Pyle’s timing, like that of Brumbies skipper Ben Mowen who is also France-bound, meant that he could lock up his future before the player market was flooded post-World Cup.
Pyle said he didn’t want to know if he was in the mix for next year’s tournament in the UK because for him it was about a new life experience.
“I didn’t want that influencing my decision,” Pyle said.
“I’m always going to want to play for the Wallabies and hopefully I can still do that.
“Where I am in life it’s something that I wanted to experience.”
Not wanting to reveal the French club, he hoped his European experience moulded him into a better player.
“I’ve really only played Super Rugby so if I’ve got the opportunity for a different aspect on the game, hopefully it makes me into a better player and in the future I can use that to get to the international stage.”