Rebels lock in Wallaby-in-waiting Ainsley

Melissa Woods

He struggles to call himself an Aussie just yet but Jermaine Ainsley's allegiance lies with the Wallabies and the Melbourne Rebels after signing a contract extension through to the end of 2020.

Growing up in Dunedin, Ainsley's father is former All Blacks prop Joe McDonnell, who had also played for the Hurricanes and Highlanders, but the 22-year-old says his future is in Australia.

Ainsley was brought up by his mum, who moved with him to Melbourne. However, he stays in touch with his dad, who is coaching in Italy.

The promising front-rower said it was an easy decision to stay with the Rebels.

"It was a big decision but an easy one in the end," Ainsley said.

"I classify myself as an Aussie now and I want to chase the Wallabies' jersey.

"Obviously, that's a huge goal for me now after signing off and saying that I'm staying here."

Ainsley played for the Wallabies last October against the Barbarians in Sydney and said he was ready if called up for a Test debut.

"I've been around the train-on squad for a couple of years now, so playing for the Wallabies is one of my goals for 2018," Ainsley said.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said Ainsley had plenty of potential ahead of the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

"I know he has a lot of ambition, he likes the battle and that is what I like about him," Cheika said.

"I'm really happy to see him re-sign at Melbourne for the coming years."