Qld Reds digging in for Digby Ioane - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Qld Reds digging in for Digby Ioane

By Jim Morton 29/05/2009 05:47:16 PM Comments (0)

Queensland officials are displaying renewed confidence destructive Wallabies flyer Digby Ioane will ignore overseas riches to stay in Australia.

But the Reds may face a fight from the Western Force and the already star-laden Brumbies to keep him at Ballymore.

A day after Wallabies coach Robbie Deans travelled to Melbourne to convince Ioane to continue his highly-promising Test career, the Reds on Friday believed the dynamic three-quarter was moving towards re-signing with the Australian Rugby Union.

"With Digby, we're far more hopeful now of keeping than we were a week or two back, so that's really positive," Reds coach Phil Mooney said.

"He's now talking about how good it will be to play in the next World Cup."

In addition to Deans' advice he would forever live to regret a move abroad that would prematurely end his international career, the Queensland Rugby Union have been working hard behind the scenes to offer Ioane a larger contract.

Led by chairman Peter Lewis, the QRU are giving the 23-year-old the assurances he's been looking for after last week saying he felt "insulted" by the ARU's initial $175,000 base contract when he'd received overseas offers up to $1.1 million.

But the Reds hold concerns the Force and Brumbies are hovering as they both fight for the services of teenage sensation James O'Connor.

Brumbies chief executive Andrew Fagan denied he'd spoken to Ioane or an adviser but admitted they would be interested in his services if they missed O'Connor.

"If James wasn't to come here and he was to stay in the west we wouldn't be looking for a 15 or 12 but a winger to come into our squad," Fagan said.

Ioane, one of rugby's hottest properties after being the most penetrative Australian player in this year's Super 14, is set to finalise his plans next week.

Former NSW fullback Peter Hewat, now playing for London Irish, said he would be "silly" to give up a burgeoning Test career at his age and could reap the big money overseas in his late-20s, early-30s.

Mooney agreed.

"The challenge of being a part of this (Reds) side here and playing for a national side that can potentially win a World Cup are wonderful challenges that you look back on the end of your career and be glad you took," he said.

The added intrigue to the Ioane saga came as Reds skipper James Horwill celebrated his 24th birthday by re-signing with Queensland and Australia through to the 2011 World Cup.

Indications are vice-captain Berrick Barnes will follow with a new two-year deal in the coming weeks.

It turns the tide of losses at the negotiating table for the Reds after Test forward Hugh McMeniman announced he would play overseas next year and prime targets Rocky Elsom, Richard Brown and Drew Mitchell all opted against returning to their home state.

Horwill, set to partner Nathan Sharpe in Australia's second row for the start the Test season, never entertained offers from overseas or interstate.

The Reds' loss of McMeniman and Elsom's likely move to the Brumbies has Brumbies back-rowers Mitchell Chapman and Julian Salvi in Queensland's sights.

But which man joins the Reds could well be decided by former All Blacks flanker Daniel Braid, who will make up his mind in the next fortnight whether to have another year in Brisbane.

If openside flanker Braid stays, then blindside flanker Chapman will be the preferred recruit.

But if Braid returns to New Zealand, then natural ball pilferer Salvi would be the main target.

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