Harris signs in Japan but still in World Cup frame
FORMER Wallabies playmaker Mike Harris hasn't closed the door on Australian rugby despite signing a two year deal with Toshiba Brave Lupus in the Japanese Top League.
The 29-year-old, who played the last of his 10 Tests in 2013, will join his club after finishing the French Top 14 season with Lyon.
Harris' consistent play and expert goalkicking have been a major factor behind Lyon's playoff push this season, with the club boasting a 12-10 record and a +118 points differential.
The former Reds and Rebels utility back was offered a new deal by Lyon, but the prospect of moving to Japan - hosts of the 2019 Rugby World Cup - proved more attractive.
By signing a two-year deal in Japan, Harris has effectively made himself ineligible to be picked for a Super Rugby club despite the two competitions not overlapping.
But should Rugby Australia deem that a Super Rugby side is too thin in a particular position, Harris could yet make a return to these shores and Reds flyhalf Jono Lance's return to Worcester at season end could create an opening.
While Hamish Stewart is considered the Reds' playmaker of the future, there are few other alternatives with coach Brad Thorn refusing to pick Test discard Quade Cooper.
Harris is also just the sort of player Thorn likes; tough, reliable and defensively sound.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika would likely support a move for Harris to return.
The Wallabies are short on back-up options should Waratahs star Bernard Foley go down injured and in a World Cup year Harris' experience would be valuable.
Cheika picked Harris in his 2016 squad to play England but the New Zealand native was forced to pull out due to injury.