Wallabies player Rob Horne takes part in a training session at Allianz Stadium.
Wallabies player Rob Horne takes part in a training session at Allianz Stadium. DAN HIMBRECHTS

Wallabies star signs with English side

WALLABIES star Rob Horne is Australia's latest to defect overseas, with the outside back signing to play with Northampton after this Super Rugby season with the Waratahs.

Horne has signed a three-year deal with the English club, which rules the 27-year-old out of contention for the 2019 World Cup.

Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson said he'd hoped to keep Horne but wished him well.

"He has been a wonderful servant, he's been at this club since he was 18 years old, has over 100 caps for the team and he's been an upstanding role model," Gibson said.

"He's still got a Super Rugby campaign to go and I'm sure he's determined to make sure it's his best ever."

Having won a Super Rugby premiership with NSW and played 33 Tests for the Wallabies, Horne is one of Australia's most valued backs.

But he has had an injury-plagued career and having rejected big-money overseas deals before, Horne will take up Northampton's lucrative offer, joining English skipper Dylan Hartley and Welsh flyer George North.

Horne has been a first-choice starting winger for the Wallabies under coach Michael Cheika, though injury prevented him from touring in last year's spring tour where Dane Haylett-Petty and Sefanaia Naivalu emerged as the preferred back-three partners to fullback Israel Folau.

Given Horne cannot bring up 60 Tests this year, he would be ineligible for Wallabies selection under the "Giteau Law" when he moves to England.

The Brumbies, meanwhile, have suffered a major blow with star halfback Tomas Cubelli to be sidelined for at least four months and possibly the entire year.

Cubelli ruptured his patellar tendon in the 37th minute of last weekend's trial match against the Waratahs, and will undergo surgery in Sydney on Tuesday.

Last year Kurtley Beale suffered the same injury but also suffered damage to his medial collateral ligament and was sidelined for seven months.

If Cubelli has additional ligament damage beyond the patellar tendon he'll be out for the year.

In either case, the Argentinian's absence leaves a gaping hole in a Brumbies side that has lost a wealth of experience.

Missing from last year's squad will be David Pocock, Stephen Moore and Matt Toomua, while captain Christian Lealiifano is recovering from cancer treatment and his return to rugby is unclear.

Joe Powell, 22, will be Cubelli's replacement at halfback.

Worryingly, the Brumbies fielded their Wallaby stars in the trial against an inexperienced NSW team that rested most of its internationals, yet the Tahs romped home 53-17.

The Brumbies were Australia's sole Super Ruby finalists in 2016, and lost their quarter-final to the Highlanders in Canberra.

They kick off their season against the formidable Crusaders in Christchurch on February 25.

News Corp Australia

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