Lote Tuqiri's plan to seek out the best deal available may have backfired after the ARU delivered a final offer less than the one rejected by the Wallabies winger five months ago.
Last November, Tuqiri rejected an offer from the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) and his Super 14 club the New South Wales Waratahs to fish for deals from all the other Australian Super 14, as well as seven national rugby league clubs.
But with the amount of money Tuqiri was demanding, only the Waratahs, the Queensland Reds and rugby league team the South Sydney Rabbitohs remain in the hunt to sign the big winger's signature.
The ARU decided to table its final offer this week, which will act as a supplement to the contract proposed by the Waratahs and the Reds, to re-sign Tuqiri for a four-year deal after this year's World Cup.
ARU General Manager Rugby Operations, Pat Wilson, indicated the offer was in line with financial agreements in place for Tier 1 Wallaby players, but was significantly less than last November's offer.
"It includes offers from the NSW Waratahs and the Queensland Reds. In accordance with ARU protocols, all Super 14 Provinces are allowed to speak to and make offers, in conjunction with the ARU, to any player coming off contract," said Wilson.
"We are hopeful Lote now decides to stay with Rugby.
"He has to weigh up the two Super 14 offers, consider each of their rugby programmes, coaching support and infrastructure and make a decision."
Wilson also said the offer that had been speculated in the media was off the mark, but made it clear this week's offer was less than the one Tuqiri rejected last year.
"The ARU wants to make it clear that the public speculation about the size of its offer to Lote has been incorrect and any reference to third-party arrangements are separate to this offer," said Wilson.
"We expect a decision from Lote by close of business Monday March 12.Â We have made it clear to Lote that Australian Rugby's offer expires at that time."