Australia relax rules to allow foreign based players

Matt Giteau starts at flyhalf this weekend

The Australian Rugby Union have relaxed their rules in eligibility for the Wallabies to allow senior foreign based players to be selected for the national team.

Australia, South Africa and New Zealand all face a mass exodus of experienced players after the Rugby World Cup and Australia do not have the depth to remain competitive.

Experienced players such as Adam Ashley-Cooper, former skipper James Horwill, Will Genia, Sekope Kepu and possibly Quade Cooper have taken up contracts with European clubs for after the world cup.

In order that they can remain competitive the Australian Rugby Union have now done a major backflip on selection and said that players with more than 60 caps and have held a professional contract with Australian rugby for at least seven years will be available for selection.

This means that players such as Matt Giteau (92 caps) and Drew Mitchell (63 caps) will be eligible for selection. Both players are with Toulon and are reigning Heineken Cup champions.

ARU chief executive Bill Pulver said the amendment was an important strategic decision made in the best interests of the code.

“This is a pivotal moment for rugby in Australia, where for the first time in its professional history, the ARU will allow overseas-based players who have made a significant contribution to Australian rugby to become eligible for the Wallabies,” he said.

“It’s a decision that recognises the changing dynamics of a global rugby market for professional players.”

Under the revised policy, players returning to Australia from overseas who make a two-year commitment to an Australian Super rugby club will also be eligible to represent the Wallabies immediately upon their return.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said greater competition for positions would inevitably lead to a stronger national team.

“It’s important to first and foremost recognise those players who are currently making a daily contribution to rugby in Australia, but at the same time not discount those elite-level and experienced Test players who have already invested so much into the code over a long period,” he said.

“From speaking with many of them, I know they still have a huge desire to represent Australia, and would do so to the very best of their abilities if ever called upon once again.

“In the end, we want the best players being rewarded for playing the majority of their career in Australia, and this is an important step to the future growth and success of the Wallabies.”

The change in eligibility could have serious implications for England and Wales as they are in the same pool as Australia in the Rugby World Cup.

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