Rugby Australia on Tuesday ruled out relaxing Wallabies’ player eligibility rules after South Africa announced it was scrapping Test selection restrictions aimed at preventing top talent heading abroad.
Australia introduced the so-called “Giteau’s Law” in 2015, allowing players with 60 caps who had played seven Super Rugby seasons to continue to be eligible for Wallabies selection after they moved overseas.
The Springboks last week dumped a similar rule that barred overseas-based players from the national team unless they had previously earned 30 Test caps.
Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus said the radical move came after much agonising about how to respond to the financial muscle of overseas clubs.
Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle said the Wallabies would not be adopting a similar stance, arguing Giteau’s Law “is working well for us”.
“It is keeping our best Wallabies in the country because of their desire to play for the Wallabies,” she told The Australian.
“That means they are playing Super Rugby, which is hugely important to us because of the commercial return that Super Rugby makes and we also have to make sure than Australia is as competitive as possible.”
Castle also rejected tweaking the rule, which was originally introduced to allow Matt Giteau to rejoin the Wallabies for the 2015 World Cup.
She said reducing the threshold to 30 caps would just render more current Wallabies a “flight risk” because they could go overseas and still play for Australia.
“So it’s not about who is already overseas,” she said. “It is about who you open up the flight risk for of our current Wallabies. Our analysis suggests that we have it right with 60 (Tests).”
Prior to 2015, Australia only selected players who had contracts with their own Super Rugby clubs.
World champions New Zealand still have the same policy, although Kiwi administrators admit it becoming increasingly difficult to retain top players in the face of big-money offers from clubs in Europe and Japan.