Scarlets’ Jake Ball to end Wales career as he opts to join family in Australia

Lock Jake Ball will effectively end his Wales career by leaving the Scarlets at the end of the season to return to Australia.

The 29-year-old has won 49 caps since his 2014 debut, becoming one of Wales’ frontline tight-five forwards.

Wales players must pass 60 caps to play for the nation while based overseas in club rugby.

Ball, however, has opted to return to Australia for family reasons, with his wife Christie having given birth to their fourth child in November.

“It has been a difficult decision to make but one I have made for the family,” said Ball.

“My wife was expecting our fourth child and, with Covid around and players having to be in bubbles and everything, we made the decision that she and the kids should go home to have some family help and support around her.

“Max was born last month. There have been Zoom calls and things, but I haven’t seen him yet and it has been difficult. As the season goes on, it would be pretty tough of me to ask Christie to come back here away from her family again.

“It has been a fantastic nine seasons I have been here. I love the Scarlets and playing with Wales has been unbelievable and something I will never forget.

“It has been a massive honour to represent my country, but at the end of the day I made a huge sacrifice in staying behind for a year without my family. I have four kids now and I won’t have seen them for close on a year.”

Ball was born in Berkshire but grew up in Australia, qualifying for Wales through his father.

After rising to prominence with Western Force, he signed for the Scarlets in 2012.

“I owe a lot to the Scarlets and Welsh rugby,” said Ball.

“I was at the Western Force before, but it was the Scarlets who gave me my first real shot in senior rugby and it will be nice to finish off on a high and reward the Scarlets for everything they have done for me over the years.

“I have some very special memories and have got to do some fantastic things. We have won the PRO12, made a European semi-final; there has been a Grand Slam and two World Cups with Wales. I have no regrets with what I have done here.

“I am just hoping we can have supporters back at Parc y Scarlets before the end of the season. It would be great to have them here so I can say my farewells properly.”

Head coach Glenn Delaney paid tribute to Ball, confirming the Scarlets’ full respect for the lock forward’s decision to put his family first.

“As a club we fully respect Jake’s decision. Family is a massive part of the Scarlets and Jake has sacrificed a huge amount being away from Christie and his children for so long,” said Delaney.

“He has been a wonderful servant for the Scarlets, an outstanding player, a great bloke around the group and has been a fantastic mentor to the young players who are coming through.

“You saw by his performance against the Ospreys on Boxing Day what playing for the Scarlets means to him and let’s hope we can have some supporters back into Parc y Scarlets by the end of the season to give him the send-off he deserves.”