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Rugby Australia to review restrictive selection criteria

August 27, 2019
All Blacks winger Sevu Reece, foreground, celebrates with teammates after scoring a try against Australia during their Bledisloe Cup rugby test match at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019. (Brett Phibbs/SNPA via AP)
All Blacks winger Sevu Reece, foreground, celebrates with teammates after scoring a try against Australia during their Bledisloe Cup rugby test match at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019. (Brett Phibbs/SNPA via AP)

SYDNEY (AP) — Australia’s rugby hierarchy is set to reconsider the so-called “Giteau Law” that defines restrictions on the eligibility of overseas-based players to represent the Wallabies.

The Wallabies are selected primarily from players contracted to Australian Super Rugby franchises, but the Giteau law allows foreign-based players with 60 or more test caps or a deal to return to an Australian club to be eligible for national selection.

At the launch of the National Rugby Championship tournament on Tuesday, Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle said it was time for another look at the regulations.

“We have a responsibility to do it,” Castle said. “The Giteau rule has worked really well for us.

But, “with South Africa changing the way they’re looking to treat their players and potentially New Zealand in the process of reviewing their very strong stance on things around players not playing overseas, and the movement of foreign players, it would be irresponsible of us not to review it.”

The Giteau Rule was introduced before the 2015 World Cup to allow the recall of veterans Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell, who had moved to France to play in the domestic club competition after long careers in Australia.

In recent seasons, it has allowed inside backs Will Genia, Nic White and Matt Toomua and utilities Adam Ashley-Cooper and James O’Connor to return for the Wallabies. But there are increasing concerns about more players leaving Australia after this year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan and becoming ineligible for national selection. Blockbusting center Semu Kerevi and locks Adam Coleman and Rory Arnold have already agreed on contracts abroad.

South Africa has scrapped restrictions on foreign-based players when it comes to selection for the Springboks, and New Zealand is considering changes to its policy of only selecting domestic-based players for the All Blacks.

Castle said a proposal to recall Will Skelton for the World Cup fell through because the big lock would have had to cut a year off his deal with England-based Saracens, and he wasn’t prepared to return to Australia until 2021.

Castle said Australia’s fundamental aim would remain for the top players to stay in Super Rugby.

“So we need to make sure we look at it from that perspective,” Castle said. “Don’t give any open doors for opportunities for players to think ’Well I’m going to disappear and not play Super Rugby and then I’m a (certainty) to be selected for the World Cup. That’s the bit we’re trying to balance.”

Giteau played 92 tests before leaving Australia in 2011 to join Toulon in France. He was drafted back into the national squad in 2015 and played a further 11 tests, helping Australia reach the World Cup final against New Zealand, before retiring from international duties and continuing his career in France and Japan.

The Wallabies have had an up-and-down buildup to the World Cup, including a loss in South Africa and wins at home over Argentina and New Zealand before a 36-0 loss to the All Blacks in Auckland on Aug. 17.

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