The Roar
The Roar


'Fighting with one hand tied': To'omua calls on Rugby Australia to 'pick best Wallabies team' to stop international slide

Autoplay in... 6 (Cancel)
Up Next No more videos! Playlist is empty -
6th March, 2024
6713 Reads

Two-time World Cup member Matt To’omua has called on Rugby Australia to allow Joe Schmidt to pick from anywhere like Rassie Erasmus, saying the Wallabies are going into matches with “one hand tied behind our back” and that it is the “way forward”.

Ever since Schmidt was unveiled as Eddie Jones’ successor in January, the New Zealander has said his preference is to pick from onshore.

At his opening press conference in Sydney, Schmidt said he had opportunities to pick from overseas when he was Ireland’s coach but chose not to.

On Tuesday, Schmidt said the door wasn’t shut on the likes of overseas fly-halves Quade Cooper and Bernard Foley, but reiterated his preference was to pick from within Super Rugby.

“I think for me, I’d be a big fan of not just those 10s, guys like [Marika] Koroibete, Will Skelton, there are players around the world that are of Australian origin that are right up at the top echelon, but I’d love to be able to pick a Wallabies team from those players that we see here in Australia itself,” Schmidt said on Stan Sport’s Rugby Heaven.

“The door’s definitely not closed, and I think too much of those players that I just mentioned to rule them out, but there’s some good kids coming through and if you don’t invest in them, then it’s hard for them to come through.


“One of the ways to invest, as I mentioned with Johnny Sexton, is to put them in behind someone with experience like Johnny had with Felipe Contepomi and that allows them to grow because coaches don’t do all the coaching at all. There is a player to player coaching that is continuous.”

Watch every match of Super Rugby Pacific ad-free, live & on demand on the Home of Rugby, Stan Sport

RA CEO Phil Waugh speaks to media during a Rugby Australia media opportunity at Allianz Stadium on January 19, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Matt To’omua says Rugby Australia should allow Joe Schmidt to pick whoever he wants in his Wallabies team. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

But To’omua, who played at two World Cups and under four Wallabies coaches, said he didn’t believe the New Zealander’s stance having seen others like Michael Cheika, Dave Rennie and Eddie Jones increasingly look to overseas to help turn around the national team’s fortunes.

“We need to pick our best team,” said To’omua, who co-hosts The Roar Rugby podcast.

“Joe coming in as a foreign coach, I feel like he needs to say that we’ll pick local. Dave Rennie said the same thing, Eddie Jones said the same thing, it’s more PR.

“We need to pick our strongest team. We haven’t won a Super Rugby competition in 10 years, we’re eighth or ninth in the world, we’re only going to slide down further.”


Ever since Cheika sensationally got his way ahead of the run to the 2015 World Cup final by being able to pick the Toulon-based stars Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell, RA has tweaked their Overseas Eligibility Policy to allow some foreign-based layers to be picked.

Mitt Giteau runs during a Bledisloe Cup game

Michael Cheika changed Australia’s eligiblity policy to pick Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell at the 2015 WOrld Cup. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

After settling on three players in the post-Covid pandemic years, Rennie sought to have discussions about increasing that number before he was axed in early 2023.

Then Jones was given “whatever he wants” by RA for the failed 2023 campaign, with Richie Arnold being plucked from Toulouse to play despite never previously representing the Wallabies.

But with the British and Irish Lions to tour Down Under next year and Australia to host the 2027 World Cup, it’s believed RA want to make it clear their strong preference for those hoping to appear in the showpiece events is that they are playing in Super Rugby.

Indeed, the perception at Moore Park is broadcasters won’t want to pay for a product where the best Wallabies players aren’t playing Super Rugby and instead are plying their trade overseas.

But To’omua believes it has got to the point where Super Rugby is no longer the product it once was and, therefore, they should priories ensuring the Wallabies are as strong as possible.


“We need to pick the best Wallabies team. End of,” said To’omua, who previously was the Rugby Union Players’ Association president.

“As much as we want to say we’re not the Socceroos, I think we need to look at it as the Socceroos.

“Unfortunately, the market is so much bigger overseas whether it’s in Japan, France or England, and we just need to pick our best team because Australia will get behind a strong Wallabies team that is performing and winning games.

“I understand the trickledown economics of it all – if we don’t have a strong local club [it will see a reduced broadcast figure] – [but] we don’t at the moment.

“Let’s get real, we don’t have a strong Super Rugby [competition] at the moment and we need to prioritise something, and I think we need the Wallabies to be at their best.

“I don’t see why we would go into a fight with one hand tied behind our back.”

Matt Toomua

Matt To’omua played at two World Cups. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)


To’omua has ridden the highs and lows of Australian rugby, having played in a Super Rugby final with the Brumbies in 2013 and two years later featuring off the bench in the World Cup final loss against the All Blacks.

He has also seen the Wallabies drop to historic lows, losing at home to Argentina and away to Italy before bowing out in the World Cup pool stage for the first time.

It’s why To’omua is not sure whether the Wallabies have experienced rock bottom yet.

“It’s funny you say that because during my career I kept thinking we’re at the lowest possible [point] because I grew up watching Toutai Kefu win the Bledisloe and John Eales kick the penalty from 15 in, and I thought we just lost to Argentina,” he said. “That’s as low as it gets.

“But the game’s moving on and we aren’t. We’re still thinking that we are the powerhouse we once are.

“Who’d have thought 10-15 years ago we would have been talking about Ireland or a Scotland as this morale true north that we want to aim towards, but that’s where the game is and we’re taking a while to adjust.”


To’omua pointed to the Springboks’ success on the world stage since Erasmus took over from Alister Coetzee, as he picked players from overseas knowing South Africa’s currency couldn’t compete with the overseas markets.  

“It’s been done before,” To’omua said.

“In 2017, Rassie comes into South Africa. South Africa were a basket case at the time. He didn’t come up with a new game plan, but he came in and said we’re going to let you play overseas, we can’t compete with overseas, but we’re going to use that money that we’ve saved on you to spend locally on grassroots and community rugby to develop those players.

“Letting guys like WiIll Skelton go overseas and earn great coin – that money that we’re saving lets actually invest that in the community game – and get Will back when we need him to do his job, which is to play for the Wallabies and play well.

“It was a masterstroke that we haven’t spoken enough about that Rassie altered – and I think it’s a way forward for us.”