Wallabies great Phil Kearns has warned against rushing to pay women’s rugby players professional wages, as Rugby Australia looks to have a full-time Wallaroos team by 2025.

The Wallaroos showed immense grit in their World Cup campaign last month, but their quarterfinal exit against the fully funded English team amplified calls for Rugby Australia to bridge the stark gap between the professional and amateur teams.

With Australia hosting the 2029 Women’s World Cup, Rugby Australia announced a plan was in place to transition towards a fully professional playing group by 2025.

Currently the Wallaroos are only paid for the time they spend in camp with the team, while players from only two of the five Australian Super W teams receive match payments.

In an interview with news.com.au the 67-Test Wallaby said the upside to female rugby players needing a job outside of the game is it leaves them better prepared for post-rugby life than their male counterparts.

“As I’ve said to some of the girls, be careful what you wish for around professionalism, because it does create its own problems,” he told news.com.au.

“It’s a solution in many ways in terms of increasing performance in the game, and that’s fantastic. But it does have the other downside of the inability to pursue a career.

“The earnings that you make in your sporting career pales into insignificance compared to the rest of your life.

“So in the short term, you might be able to make a lot of money but it doesn‘t last very long. The ability to have a career for the next 40 years will far outweigh financially what you make in those few years.”

Kearns’ own career at rugby’s top level came either side of the professionalisation of the men’s game, which he said gave him the benefit of perspective.

“I was incredibly lucky that throughout my rugby career we knew we had to be doing something outside of rugby,” he said.

“A lot of young players now, they haven’t had to think about that, so they only come to it towards the end of their careers when it’s often a bit late.

“It’s a really difficult path to navigate for athletes, but it is also a difficult path for people who have been through the armed forces.

“You head down that path that you think you could potentially be in forever, but it comes to an end for many.”

Kearns also shared his excitement around the proposal to combine Wallabies and All Blacks into an Anzac XV that would take on the British and Irish Lions.

“The original game back in 1989 was a wonderful addition to the Lions calendar,” he said.

“The Anzacs always had that interesting relationship with the British generals, so for that friendly rivalry to continue, it will be something wonderful to reinvigorate.”

The fixture would represent a cooling in relations between Rugby Australia (RA) and New Zealand Rugby (NZR), who have been locked in conflict over the funding of Super Rugby Pacific.

Kearns said RA’s threat to cut ties with NZR had served to bolster the relationship, despite the parties still lacking an agreement over the competition’s future.

“I think we have stood up for ourselves, and we’ve probably gained more respect from the New Zealanders by doing that.”

Kearns famously went from being one of RA’s biggest critics to an instrumental part in its successful bid to host the 2027 men’s World Cup.

Now, he believes Australia has the talent coming through to win it.

“If we can get that solid squad together, it will take us a long way. We’ve got some really good talent coming through with players like Nick Frost, Tate McDermott, Ben Donaldson and Tane Edmed,” he said.

“Having them as a core part of Australian rugby would be enormous for us and it could lead to a win in 2027.”

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