Second rower Dean Mumm and No. 8 Wycliff Palu have re-signed with both Australian Rugby and the NSW Waratahs for another season. The pair have recommitted until the end of 2012, becoming the ninth and 10th off-contract players to have re-confirmed their playing futures in Australia this year.
Palu made his state debut in 2003 and had his Super Rugby introduction two years later, before playing his first Test for Australia against England in 2006. The damaging ball-runner returned to duty during the Waratahs loss to the Cheetahs in Sydney two weeks ago, after an almost year-long absence from the field because of a knee ligament injury.
He featured in the most recent of his 36 Tests when Australia beat Wales 33-12 in Cardiff to close the 2009 Spring Tour. The match was, at the time, the 19th, from a possible 28 Tests, to have featured the 28-year-old Manly club loose forward since the start of 2008. This year, he is bidding to attend his second Rugby World Cup after participating in the 2007 tournament in France.
“Like everyone, it [the Rugby World Cup] is a massive goal for this year, but my decision to stay goes beyond that,” Palu says. “I’m a bit like all of the other guys who have re-signed recently: I’m really enjoying my rugby, at both state level and with the Wallabies, and want to keep going with it.
“A lot of work has gone in over the last few years to build the Wallabies up, and you can sense that the team is on the up again and that some good times are ahead. It won’t be easy but I would like to see where things lead. I’m not alone in feeling that way.”
Palu admits that the retention of so many of his state and national team-mates, including his good mate Tatafu Polota Nau, had been a lever in his own decision to stay, given that he did have other options.
“It did play a part. We can all see the potential that is there, but we are only going to be able to fulfil that if we all stay around and stick together. Having been forced to watch for so long while I came back from injury, I’m looking forward to now being able to do my bit.”
Palu showed Lazarus-like qualities during his last Wallaby tour, returning to star during the tour-ending drubbing of Wales on the 2009 trip only seven days after he had been taken from Murrayfield on a stretcher during the loss to Scotland.
“Playing for Australia alongside my mates has always been important for me,” he says. “It was back then and nothing’s changed.”
Friday night will see Palu line-up alongside his mates to make the 65th appearance of his Super Rugby career when the Waratahs host the Chiefs at the Sydney Football Stadium.
Mumm will also be out there. He made his Super Rugby debut for the Waratahs against the Lions in 2007, and was introduced to the Test side the following season during Australia’s 18-12 win over Ireland in Melbourne.
The brother of Sydney University coach Greg Mumm, and the son of Australian Rugby Union board member John Mumm, Dean enters 2011 having appeared on 32 occasions in Test matches for the Qantas Wallabies. He has missed just nine games since his international debut.
The 27-year-old also captained the midweek Wallaby team to victories against Gloucester and the Cardiff Blues during the 2009 Spring Tour, and has twice led the Waratahs in Super Rugby matches.
“Playing for the Wallabies was a massive honour when I first had the opportunity, and the aspiration to wear the national jersey remains,” Mumm says.
Mumm is one of 28 new Test players to have been capped since Robbie Deans became Wallabies coach in 2008 and says sharing the experience with a large number who had come in at a similar time had provided incentive to stay in the country and keep going.
“Obviously I started with the Wallabies at a time where there was a fair bit of change going on with a new coach, new ideas and an influx of new personnel but, while there have been a few bumps in terms of our performance, the consistency is coming,” Mumm says.
“We saw that through the performances at the back end of the Tri Nations last year, and then on the Spring Tour. Those games; and especially the matches against South Africa in Bloemfontein, New Zealand in Hong Kong and France in Paris are great reference points for us heading into this year. They showed what the team is capable of, and also where we might get to if we can keep building on what we have created so far.
“Certainly the World Cup in New Zealand later in the year is a major goal, as is the Bledisloe Cup and Tri Nations tournament before it, but I think we are all thinking even beyond those events, in terms of where we think the team might get to. While I can’t speak for any of the others who have recently re-signed to stay on longer, actions do speak louder than words at times. The fact that so many off-contract guys want to stay put says to me that, like me, they can see some great possibilities ahead.”
The full list of players that have re-signed with the Australian Rugby Union this year is: Adam Ashley-Cooper (NSW Waratahs), Stephen Moore (Brumbies), Ben Alexander (Brumbies), Drew Mitchell (NSW Waratahs), Berrick Barnes (NSW Waratahs), Tatafu Polota Nau (NSW Waratahs), Rob Horne (NSW Waratahs), Lachie Turner (NSW Waratahs), Dean Mumm (NSW Waratahs), Wycliff Palu (NSW Waratahs).