Wallabies high-performance manager David Nucifora has denied suggestions that the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) has embraced a policy of trying to persuade rugby league stars to switch codes with lucrative contract offers.
According to reports, Brisbane Broncos ace Israel Folau and Billy Slater of the Melbourne Storm, who are currently at the centre of a salary cap scandal, have both been offered 'top-ups' in excess of $700,000 to make the move to union ahead of next year's World Cup.
''There is no player, I can guarantee, who is (being offered) that kind of money from the ARU,'' Nucifora told the Sun-Herald. ''We're not actively pursuing any rugby league players, including Billy Slater or any of the other Melbourne Storm players - or any other league players. It's not on our agenda to be doing that and again it's really just unfounded speculation that's been fuelled by what has gone on down in Melbourne with the Storm. It's certainly not our plan to offer ARU top-ups to any Melbourne Storm players.''
Nucifora, though, admitted that they are fully supportive of the newly-formed Melbourne Rebels' pursuit of Folau, who lined out for the Storm before joining the Broncos last year.
"We understand their reasons as to why they want Israel Folau to play for them: his (prominence) down there (in Melbourne). That makes sense. He'd be a good figurehead to get rugby up and running … given his association with the Melbourne Storm and it all makes sense. So it'll be good for them if they do manage to get him," he said.
''And if it pays dividends nationally down the track, well that's great, too. But we'll have to wait and see; he's the one that has to make the decision.''
Stade Francais wing Mark Gasnier is also being linked with the Rebels but Nucifora is not too confident that the former league star will return home.
''If Mark decides he wants to come back to Australia, play rugby and try his hand at Super rugby and see if he's good enough to be a Wallaby, then he'll come here and it won't be an issue of money," he said. "But with any of these things, usually the longer it goes on the less likely it is of happening.''