SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia will not be following South Africa by scrapping its restrictions on overseas-based players representing their country, Rugby Australia chief Raelene Castle has said.
The southern hemisphere powers have faced an accelerating stampede of players heading off to enjoy the riches of European and Japanese rugby in recent years and have introduced various rules to try to keep their test sides strong.
South Africa introduced a 30-cap threshold for overseas-based players to play test rugby in 2017 to encourage young talent to stay home but, with the World Cup only a few months away abandoned it at the weekend.
Australia, which had previously not allowed anyone based abroad to play tests, instituted a similar rule – dubbed the Giteau Law and demanding a minimum of 60 caps – before the last World Cup, and Castle said it was working well.
“At the moment, we’re very comfortable with the way it’s performing,” she told reporters in Brisbane.
“The Giteau Law for us is a rule that’s in place that we review often because we need to make sure that it’s delivering to the outcomes that we put it in place for.
“And we believe it is, we believe the benchmark is right as a 60-test threshold because if you’ve played 60 tests for your country you deserve the chance to look at other options because you have the training maturity and the professionalism to come back into the Wallaby environment and fit right in.
“We think from a going overseas perspective it’s right, we think probably if we lowered it, what it does do is potentially have us lose some of the current talent that we have playing here in Super Rugby.
“And Super Rugby is also incredibly important for us because we need to make sure that our four teams are successful in the Super Rugby competition.”
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was the driving force behind the rule change and immediately benefited from the introduction of experienced backs like Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell to his squad for the 2015 World Cup.
Australia reached the final in England but have enjoyed three miserable seasons since, raising serious doubts over their ability to bring home the World Cup for the third time later this year.
There have been some positive signs in the first two weeks of the new Super Rugby season, however, and the quality of player that would become available to Cheika should Australia loosen the restrictions is nowhere near that of four years ago.