Wallaby signs with English giants in new setback for reeling Rebels


In another dose of disappointment for the Melbourne Rebels, two-Test Wallaby Josh Kemeny will leave the embattled Super Rugby franchise at season’s end.

The Roar can reveal the 25-year-old, who first caught the eye of Dave Rennie before being a surprise inclusion in Eddie Jones’ World Cup squad, has signed a two-year deal with Northampton Saints in the English Premiership.

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His departure comes less than a year after he made his debut for the Wallabies off the bench against Argentina in Sydney.

Kemeny, who made his Super Rugby debut for the Rebels in 2020, was one of Jones’ bolters for the World Cup, earning selection over former captain Michael Hooper and Pete Samu.

Josh Kemeny poses during a Wallabies Rugby Championship Headshots Session at Sanctuary Cove on June 26, 2023 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

His only World Cup action was against Portugal in their final Pool C fixture, as he came off the bench during their win in Saint Etienne.

The Rebels wanted to keep Kemeny, who also had interest from the Waratahs, but a desire to enter a program humming – the Saints sit atop the English Premiership – played a part in his decision to head to England.

While the deal was done before the Rebels entered voluntary administration, the uncertainty surrounding the Super Rugby franchise’s future didn’t help.

His decision to leave is another warning shot for Rugby Australia to get their house in order quickly, with players and coaches looking at options both home and away.

There remains a chance the Rebels, who are $20 million in the red, survive and continue beyond 2024.

But even if they do, unless some clarity is provided quickly, they will have to start their rebuild again with multiple players uncontracted beyond season’s end.

The fact Wallabies coach Joe Schmidt has yet to officially start – and is playing catch-up – won’t help the situation either, with players on the fringe of national selection hoping for national top-ups but unsure where they sit in the selection picture.

Kemeny is one such player, with not even the lure of playing against the British and Irish Lions doing enough to sway him to stay in Australian rugby.

Capable of playing right across the back-row, the forward impressed in his comeback season from a devastating knee-injury last year.

Entering his fifth season of Super Rugby, he’s at an age where he should be entering his prime. Unfortunately for Australian rugby, he won’t be Down Under to show it.

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