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Meehan glad to be clear of ‘shocking’ Aussie mess

London Irish RFC

Livewire London Irish scrum-half Ben Meehan has set his heart on impressing England boss Eddie Jones after escaping the “disgraceful” events surrounding Australian rugby.

Meehan, 24, jetted in from the Melbourne Rebels a fortnight ago with doubts swirling over the Super Rugby franchise’s future –  a situation that appears to have finally been resolved following the announcement that the Western Force are to be axed instead.

Meehan, who is England-qualified through Yorkshire grandparents, reckons many of his former teammates would follow him to Europe if chances arose.

“I was lucky to make my decision to come to Irish in January before everything kicked off at the Rebels, but what’s happened is disgraceful for the players and staff,” he said.

“Those boys are under enormous pressure and stress for their families and job security; one day you’re getting told by an owner that the club is one hundred per cent safe for the next 20 years, and two weeks later you read that he’s selling it.

“It’s been very hard for the guys, and on top of that we weren’t having a great season in Super Rugby so it all folded into one gunshot. It’s hard for the staff as well; if the club goes and they don’t get dealt jobs elsewhere, they’d be sacked.

“The Rebels have been sold to the Victoria Rugby Union now and I hope everyone’s okay, but it’s been disgracefully handled by Australia Rugby since February and the fact they think they can play around with people’s livelihoods as well is simply shocking.”

Meehan added: “Australian rugby constantly complains that they are losing all their talent to Europe or Japan, but how can you not leave Australia with all this going on? A lot of boys are saying they’ll take anything in Europe now and just want to get out.

“I was lucky that I qualify for England because it made me more marketable, but I feel tremendous sympathy for guys stuck at home who can’t get moves.”

Meehan found himself stymied behind fellow pivot Nic Stirzaker in Melbourne, but is determined to show his class in Premiership rugby after being heavily courted by Irish.

“I had numerous Skype calls with (rugby director) Nick Kennedy and (backs coach) Paul Hodgson and they gave me the confidence to think I could really advance my career at London Irish,” former Australia U20s star Meehan explained.

“I was getting quite down at times with the Rebels because I couldn’t ever get past Nic Stirzaker and get a proper crack. I felt I was the better player but I just never seemed to get in the coaches’ eyes enough for them to make that call.

“It was so frustrating because I was putting in the work and not getting rewarded, so that made my decision to come here so much easier.

“Paul Hodgson was a major influence in me coming. He’s got great knowledge of the game from playing scrum-half for England and we have similar thoughts on how the game should be played, so I’ll try to make an impact in the Premiership.”

Meehan faces competition from established Exiles No.9s Brendan McKibbin and Scott Steele but cannot be accused of lacking in confidence as he outlines his manifesto for adding his name to the array of stars looking to catch Jones’ eye.

He added: “I’m eligible for England and that’s my big ambition. Eddie Jones is not afraid to make big decisions on what he thinks is right, so I’ll back myself to do well in the Premiership and see what comes of that.

“My strengths are my kicking and passing game, plus my quickness around the field, so if I can lock down a starting spot and take Irish forward, hopefully we can have some success.

“We’ve got to win the physical battles first and play off the back of that, but I genuinely think we’ve got a squad to do well. Irish have a tremendous history and it’s not out of our reach to win a championship in the next couple of years.”

NEALE HARVEY

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