Welsh breakout star Joe Hawkins is the latest focus in the WRU’s turbulent contract saga. The 20-year-old made five appearances for the national team, but still decided to leave Ospreys to move to the Exeter Chiefs.
Hawkins was set to head to Sandy Park ahead of the 2023/24 Gallagher Premiership season, but in doing so he disqualified himself from playing for Wales at the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
This happened because Hawkins failed to make the 25 Wales caps needed to represent his country while based outside Wales.
Hawkins posted a statement on social media to relieve his current predicament. The exciting youth center highlighted how he will focus on his career and thanked fans for all the support.
Hawkins said representing Wales at the 2023 Guinness Six Nations in 2023 was a “childhood dream”. Center was a breakout star of the league, and started the first four games for Warren Gatland’s side. In his heartfelt statement, Hawkins wrote;
“First of all, it is an honor to represent Ospreys – a club that has grown me from age level to senior rugby. My decision to leave my hometown is not taken lightly.”
“Unfortunately, I was deemed ineligible to play for Wales and the opportunity to play in the World Cup was gone. I wish the boys and staff the best of luck, and I truly regret not being able to share this journey with them.”
“I would like to admit that by signing my first professional contract with Exeter Chiefs, I have completely prioritized my rugby career. I did so with an interest in my career growth, personal growth, and financial security.”
“The turbulent times of Welsh rugby, where no contracts were offered in Wales, put all the players out of contract under pressure. Witnessing the number of players who are currently out of work in Wales has strengthened my decision.”
“Furthermore, while I’ve spent the last three years playing professional rugby, and then international rugby, I’ve been signed to the academy, – significantly underpaid.”
Controversial, Hawkins would have been eligible to play for Wales, had the center not been introduced on the international scene before his move to the Exeter Chiefs. Additionally, situations become even more difficult for Hawkins, as his Welsh team-mate, Dragons lock Will Rowlands, qualify despite only 23 caps and the next is scheduled to be Planning for Racing 92.
Rowlands is eligible for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, if he can make two more test appearances for Wales before the tournament. Rowlands have been an integral part of the Welsh squad, and have two World Cup warm-ups against England and a clash with South Africa to make up just in time.
Rugby’s Exeter Chiefs director Rob Baxter has stated that the Devonshire club are not at fault for Hawkins’ international absence.
Baxter said: “We don’t take any responsibility as we have approached it with open arms completely, in anticipation that he will play for Wales.
“We felt that we had everything we needed. We have complied with what we have been asked to do with the information we have. Clearly Wales felt there were things that didn’t justify the certain date and time they wanted.
“We didn’t do anything wrong, we certainly didn’t break any rules.
5 players are seriously suspected for the 2023 Rugby World Cup
As the 2023 Rugby World Cup draws near, international stars around the globe are doing their best to ensure they are on the French team.
However, untimely injuries and eligibility changes, left these five players in serious doubt for rugby’s top notch competitiveness.
An honorable mention must be made of the Irish amulet Johnny Sexton. The 37-year-old suffered a groin injury during Ireland’s tense 2023 Six Nations match against France, and was sidelined in the ensuing win over Italy. The half-flyer returned to lead his side to Grand Slam glory against England, but the injury recurred and worsened in the process. Sexton looked doubtful for the Rugby World Cup, as it was announced he would have surgery on the injury.
Sexton’s lifelong Leinster career came to an abrupt end, as the Dubliner was left out of the rest of his team’s United Rugby Championship and Heineken Champions Cup campaigns. However, today Sexton has given Irish fans positive news of his return, assuring them that he will be back at some stage of the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Ireland are among the favorites to take home the Web Ellis trophy and aim to do so for the first time in their history.
Thankfully, Sexton has set his sights on the 2023 Rugby World Cup, but unfortunately less can be said for these five players. Here are five international stars who are looking to miss the confrontation event in France.
- Jonny Gray – Scotland
The towering lock that saw his Rugby World Cup contention in the balance, after sustaining an unfortunate knee injury last Sunday. Gray dislocated his knee while playing for the Exeter Chiefs in his team’s Heineken Champions Cup semi-final defeat to La Rochelle.
Rugby’s Exeter Chiefs director Rob Baxter has stressed how dire this is a scenario for Scottish hopes.
“It’s relatively serious but not the worst possible. From what I know, unless the surgery goes well and he recovers quickly, I would say he is very unlikely to make it to the World Cup.”
“It was a patellar tendon injury; He dislocated his kneecap.” Baxter added, confirming the extent of the injury.
“Fortunately, the other major ligaments in the knee are stable,” he said. It’s a relatively complicated patellar tendon injury that will require surgery this week and will have a relatively long recovery time. We expect him to be back pretty soon next season, especially when the Premiership kicks off at the end of next year with its first World Cup.”