Australia to allow players to take sabbaticals

The Australian Rugby Union have given the green light for top Australian Rugby Players to take one year sabbaticals in order to slow the flow of players leaving for overseas.

The ARU Board have approved the change which will allow Australian rugby stars to take a one year contract with a foreign club while still under contract with Australian rugby from 2016.

As it currently stands only players who are playing domestic Australian rugby such as Super Rugby are eligible to play for Australia.

ARU chief executive Bill Pulver says that the change in rules will help them retain players on a longer term basis.

“We’ve recognised that in the context of an increasingly global market for Rugby players that we need to take a more flexible approach to player contracting,” Mr Pulver said.

“As such, we need to be proactive and adapt our policies to best serve the interests of Rugby in Australia.

“By adopting a flexible contracting model, we’re creating a platform for our players to experience what Rugby has to offer in Australia and abroad, all while maintaining their allegiance to Australian Rugby over a long-term period.

“We’re confident this flexibility will encourage players to make significant long-term commitments to Australian Rugby and help us to minimise the number of players who permanently re-locate to foreign leagues.

“Decisions regarding all flexible contracts will be made on a case-by-case basis, understanding that our key priority remains that the Wallabies and Super Rugby provinces to have a strong and deep playing pool of talent available each year.”

In addition, players who represent Australia in Rugby Sevens at the 2016 Olympics will be granted permission to play the 2016/17 Japanese domestic season without affecting their eligibility for the Wallabies upon their return in 2017.

This year Australian rugby lost former Wallabies captain Ben Mowen and lock Kane Douglas have agreed moves to France while stars Israel Folau and Will Genia have been linked to foreign teams.

The New Zealand Rugby Union have been allowing players to take sabbaticals for years including Dan Carter who in 2008/9 played in France for Perpignan. Ma’a Nonu was also allowed to play in Japan.

This week the NZRU relaxed their rules of playing domestic rugby for Sonny Bill Williams by making him eligble for the All Blacks without having played domestic New Zealand rugby.

While the move will help the ARU retain high profile players the ARU did point out that the changes will not alter Australian rugby’s policy that only those playing in Australia would be eligible to be a Wallaby.

“It does however provide greater flexibility in the contracting process by allowing select players the opportunity to become eligible for Test representation at different points of the year,” said the ARU.

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