Dave Rennie will be able to pick two overseas-based players with fewer than 60 Test caps for his Wallabies teams this year after Rugby Australia announced a short-term change to the Giteau Law.
Under the eligibility criteria introduced before the 2015 Rugby World Cup, players with seven years of service to Australian rugby and 60 international caps were able to be selected for Australia regardless of which country they played their provincial rugby in, but those who didn’t meet the criteria were lost to the national team while playing overseas.
The change, however, will allow a pair of players plying their trade outside Australia to be picked for the Wallabies regardless of whether they meet the criteria, but only during the World Rugby-sanctioned international window and only for the 2020 season – although interim Rugby AU CEO Rob Clarke left the door open to a more permanent change in the future.
“We are being quite clear that this addition is for this year only but that we will continue to review the entire policy from time to time, as required,” Clarke said.
“This is a prudent and measured step in response to the unprecedented impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Australian rugby and the broader rugby community.
“Dave (Rennie) will soon assemble his squad and they’re likely to remain in a ‘bubble’ for ten weeks with no opportunity to call in replacements for injury due to the quarantined environment. It will be a real test for those players selected, and the Wallabies management team, but I know they are incredibly excited about the opportunity.”
With the two-player limit, Rennie will be unable to bring back all of the Test-quality Australians previously unavailable for selection, however it will allow him to bolster current areas of weakness.
The position most likely to be filled by overseas players is the second row, where Australia has seen an exodus of their best players recently. Rory Arnold and Will Skelton are both sure to come under selection consideration, while Samu Kerevi, Sean McMahon and Adam Coleman are some of the others who may add to their Wallabies caps as a result of the change.
“First and foremost, it is crucial that we recognise those players who are currently making a daily contribution to rugby in Australia, and that will be reflected in the squad we name for this year’s Test season,” Rennie said.
“We now have the chance to select one or two players based overseas who don’t meet the current criteria and they’ll not only add some experience to our group but be able to guide our young players to help their development.
“We are also looking long term though. We want to bring players back to play Super Rugby here in Australia, especially those who are passionate about playing for the Wallabies, get them excited about being in the environment again and this is a great way to encourage that.”