Bula! Hayne’s bombshell Rugby World Cup dream
THE stars are aligning for codehopping superstar Jarryd Hayne to launch an audacious bid to play for Fiji at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Hayne is contracted to the Parramatta Eels for the 2018 NRL season but the Fijian rugby community is abuzz with talk that the 29-year-old wants to join the island nation for what would be the latest twist in a remarkable sporting career.
Hayne has already represented Fiji in league and rugby sevens but fell short of his dream of playing at the 2016 Rio Olympics, following his shock switch from the NFL.
"There's obviously been talk around the camp that Jarryd's potentially coming to play for Fiji," said Nemani Nadolo, a senior player for the Fiji rugby team, told foxsports.com.au.
"Just the excitement of hearing that Jarryd Hayne might be coming across again is pretty exciting."
Hayne did not respond to inquiries while his manager Wayne Beavis told foxsports.com.au
that he hadn't "spoken to anyone in rugby" since a flirtation with a French club in 2015.
But sources have told foxsports.com.au the interest is real and Fiji rugby coach John McKee said his door was open.
"I'd certainly look at Jarryd's form if he came back to rugby," McKee said.
"Realistically it'd be a hard job now with rugby league going through to September; it doesn't leave much of a window for him.
"He's got a lot of good players he's up against, so if he's good enough he'll get in but he'd have to be outplaying some outstanding players."
The 2019 World Cup kicks off in September.
Hayne has not played 15-a-side rugby at the elite level and is ineligible to play for the Wallabies after representing Fiji in sevens in 2016.
Making things even juicier is the fact that Australia and Fiji have been drawn in the same pool at the 2019 World Cup.
While Hayne missed the cut for Fiji's gold medal winning Olympic squad after his shock switch from the NFL, he made a huge impression in their rugby community for his attitude and skill.
Hayne's NRL form was patchy for the Gold Coast Titans last year and while there is hope that a return to the Eels will spark a return to his best, he is only contracted until the end of the season.
Brisbane-raised Nadolo - currently starring for Montpellier in the Top 14 - said despite his lack of rugby experience, Hayne could command huge money in France or Japan before the World Cup.
"He's the sort of guy who'd be on a million bucks a year," Nadolo said.
"I think it would be an easier transition for him than sevens because 15s is kind of similar to the 13-man game.
"Obviously there's a few more things that need to be looked at, a few more rules and what not, but I think he'll transition a bit easier if he came to Fiji and union.
"It will make our work more cut out but it'll add depth to our backline and I think they'll probably most likely play him at fullback."
The timeline for a code switch and Hayne learning the ropes in rugby would be extremely tight.
The 2018 NRL grand final is on September 30 while the Japanese Top League runs from August-January and the French Top 14 from August-June.
Hayne would be competing for a Test spot against fellow codehopper and former Eel Semi Radradra, who is starring for Toulon and poised to make his Fiji debut in June as an outside centre.
"I want to pick the strongest possible team and I'll look at all Fijian players to work out who are the best players to play at the Rugby World Cup," McKee said.
A veteran of 199 NRL games, a State of Origin champion and a two-time Dally M medallist, Hayne would offer the world's ninth ranked rugby side genuine X-factor and big match experience.
Former Crusaders winger Nadolo - who starred at the 2015 World Cup - said Fiji needed someone of Hayne's stature to make an impression at the sport's showpiece tournament.
"He's a superstar. In both codes he's well known," Nadolo said.
"Let's be honest, we've got a lot of good outside backs as well in Fiji and we're not short of wingers, but what he'd bring to the team and what he'd bring for the game and the country would be awesome.
"I think we probably need someone like him.
"It would be good to have someone of his status come across from league where he's a big dog and he's a superstar.
"And I guess his experience with what he's gone through and what he's done - I know mentally he'd be strong and he'd add heaps for whatever team he plays in.
"It'd be good to hopefully see the big fella come across."
Hayne takes great pride in representing Fiji and playing at the World Cup would rank alongside eight games for the San Franciso 49ers as his most significant achievement on a global sporting scale.
A TV audience of 120 million watched the 2015 World Cup final between New Zealand and Australia.
In a column for foxsports.com.au following Fiji's historic Olympic gold in 2016, Hayne - whose father is Fijian - opened up about his deep connection with the tiny island nation.
"The great thing about my journey is realising that sometimes you do things in life not based on your own achievements but helping someone else," Hayne wrote.
"When you look back on your journey in life you want to experience things that are fun and that you can be proud of...
"It's really humbling in Fiji because the emphasis isn't about winning or trophies or medals or being better than someone else.
"It's about pushing yourself to be the best you can be and playing for a higher purpose...
"When I made the decision to give sevens a crack, some people in Australia were saying how bad it was and that I shouldn't do it - why was I trying to take a local player's place?
"In Fiji they were saying 'why are these people saying these things? This is about doing the best for Fiji.'
"It's a different mindset.
"In the west often people put themselves first but it's different in Fiji."