Very few people say no to Michael Cheika, but Kane Douglas did.
Almost as soon as the ink was dry on a three-year contract with Leinster in the summer of 2014, the lock got a call from a familiar number.
Cheika, formerly his head coach at the Waratahs, had just been appointed Wallabies boss. Would Douglas give up on his Irish challenge for a shot at the World Cup? No, said the 26-year-old. He kept on saying it, every time Cheika called him — and there were so many calls that the head coach thought he was going to get a police banning order.
So it comes as a surprise to Douglas that he finds himself in a hotel in south-west London, wearing an Australian training jersey and fielding questions about an upcoming World Cup semi-final against Argentina.
What changed? His personal circumstances — primarily his girlfriend’s pregnancy — and desire to be closer to his family were key, and in July the roles were reversed, as Douglas phoned Cheika.
A release from his contract with Leinster was agreed, and a new deal with the Queensland Reds signed. Cheika, as always, had got his man.
“It was a big decision to leave and a big decision to come back,” said Douglas.
“I haven’t regretted any decision I have made and I am pretty happy with where I am at the moment.
“Cheik was in the dark until I was going (to Leinster). When I was going to Ireland he was very supportive and said ‘at least you are going to a good club’. He was trying to tell me where to live.
“Then he talked to me early days when he first started in charge of the Wallabies. Then he stopped as he thought there would be no chance.
“Then I got in contact with them towards the end when I wanted to come home. It was more for me and family stuff that I wanted to come home.
“Did I think I would be in this position a year ago? Obviously not. I nearly ruled myself out by moving to Ireland so I am happy to be here now.”
There is, though, disappointment that Douglas will not be facing Ireland this weekend. Argentina were simply too good in Cardiff but Douglas admits he is surprised no northern hemisphere sides qualified for the semi-finals.
“It would have been good if it were Ireland,” Douglas said. “They lost a few key players. I have a few mates there who will be disappointed. That’s life.
“And it does surprise me (that no northern hemisphere sides made the last four).
“It was good footy playing in the European games and watching the Six Nations. It is a good brand of footy.
“It is surprising but you can’t fit more than four teams in the semis. It has worked out it is southern hemisphere teams. I really like watching them play, especially Ireland.” Just not as much as he likes playing for the Wallabies.
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