All Blacks confirm no plans to change expats policy

New Zealand Rugby CEO Steve Tew rules out a knee-jerk reaction to Australia's decision to accommodate some overseas players

The Sport Review staff
By The Sport Review staff

New Zealand Rugby have ruled out any immediate change to their policy to not select overseas players.

Chief executive Steve Tew confirmed the matter had been discussed at board level this week, but they will not be following the Australian Rugby Union in relaxing their rules.

The core policy is if you’re not here you don’t play for us and we think that’s been a very important part of our player retention strategy, and there’s no immediate thought of changing that.

All Blacks CEO Steve Tew

Australia and New Zealand’s Super Rugby franchises have seen their best talent plundered by big-spending French and English clubs in recent seasons, with some players also heading to Ireland.

New Zealand has been rocked by All Blacks duo Charles Piutau and Colin Slade securing lucrative moves to northern hemisphere clubs, effectively ending their international careers, with head coach Steve Hansen unhappy at Piutau having his head turned by a huge two-year deal from Ulster and the Irish Rugby Football Union.

A number of other senior All Blacks are also heading to France and England this summer, although the likes of Dan Carter, Conrad Smith and Ben Franks are now in their 30s.

England, who selected overseas players for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, changed to a strict home-based selection policy and while New Zealand find themselves in the minority among major Test nations, Tew believes there is no immediate desire to change in the way that South Africa and Australia have.

“You never say never, but our policy is that to wear the All Black jersey you have to play your rugby in New Zealand,” Tew told Radio Sport.

“We have treated some players I guess with a little bit of flexibility in terms of their return to the country when they’ve become eligible.

“But the core policy is if you’re not here you don’t play for us and we think that’s been a very important part of our player retention strategy, and there’s no immediate thought of changing that.

“Right now the player market is incredibly competitive; it’s that time of the four-year cycle.

“We had quite a long discussion about it around the board table yesterday and we have no intentions of changing that policy, but we’re constantly reviewing what we’re doing and if circumstances change we’d be foolish not to think about it but right now our policy is the policy and that’s the end of it.”

The ARU confirmed on Wednesday that overseas-based players who have 60 plus Wallabies caps and held a contract at home for at least seven years will immediately be available for selection.

Dubbed ‘Giteau’s Law’, the move has opened the door for Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika to select a trio of experienced France-based internationals at the Rugby World Cup with Australia in a tough pool that includes England, Wales and Fiji.

It’s a balancing act between making sure your national side is winning and your home competition is still buoyant, so I think each country has got to make the right decision for them.

Sir John Kirwan on selecting overseas players

Centurion back-row forward George Smith has spent most of the last five years plying his trade in Japan and France, while playmaker Matt Giteau is an iconic figure at Toulon, where Australian winger Drew Mitchell also plays.

Sir John Kirwan, head coach of the Auckland-based Blues franchise and a Rugby World Cup winner in 1987, puts the ARU’s move down to wanting to be more competitive at the Rugby World Cup.

But the 63-times capped hooker does not believe that New Zealand should copy their formula, as young players flock to bigger pay days in Japan and Europe.

“I think we have issues with our younger guys leaving, the Australian Rugby Union obviously decided to be competitive for the World Cup and there is a couple of guys overseas that they want to be available,” Kirwan said at his press briefing on Thursday.

“I’m sure Michael Cheika is sitting back saying ‘do you want me to win? This is what I need’.

“It’s a balancing act between making sure your national side is winning and your home competition is still buoyant.

“So I think each country has got to make the right decision for them.

“I think the aura is still there [in the All Blacks jersey], but what we’re seeing is an opportunity to use other people’s money and still come back and have a crack at the All Black jersey.

“The Rene Ranger-type situation where you think, ‘OK, this is such good money, I’ll go for two years, get my family and myself sorted out, then come back and have another crack’.

“I just think guys are making more balanced decisions about their future.”

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