Australia are expected to loosen eligibility laws regarding selection for the men's national rugby team, but lawmakers will keep a cap when it comes to overseas-based players.
The topic of the Wallabies' strict selection policy was brought back into the spotlight following three straight defeats to New Zealand earlier this summer.
Rugby Australia chief executive Andy Marinos suggested at the time the 'Giteau Law' could be relaxed in order to see more foreign-based talents become eligible to represent the national team.
Marinos serves on the governing body's rugby committee alongside former Wallabies Daniel Herbert and Phil Waugh, the latter of whom has affirmed change is incoming.
Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie had his request approved for several Giteau Law exemptions to be approved for this year's Rugby Championship, with more expected to follow on their upcoming tour of Europe.
Waugh nodded to those exemptions and told the Sydney Morning Herald about the process that led to permissions being granted to accommodate some players based outside Australia.
“When we looked at the performance and the lack of board oversight on performance, between Hamish [Rugby Australia chair McLennan], Herby and myself, we looked at it and decided we needed to lean into this area more,” he said .
“To not only provide support for the high-performance unit and Andy, but also to make sure the board has appropriate oversight on what’s occurring within the high-performance unit and the performance of our national team, which we’re ultimately responsible for.
“It was really fluid, to be fair. We needed to lean in and drive greater performance outcomes than what we were experiencing.”
Australia finished second behind New Zealand in the Rugby Championship after winning their last four games, with Rennie bringing the nation four consecutive victories for the first time since 2017.
The team benefited from Quade Cooper—who plays for Kintetsu Liners in Japan—being brought back into the team, while allowances were made to also see Samu Kerevi, Sean McMahon and Duncan Paia’aua return.
The Giteau Law was put in place ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup and restricts players from representing Australia unless they currently play in the country, or they have 60 caps and seven years of Super Rugby experience.
“You put a cap on it, but you have the ability to exceed that cap on an exemption basis. If there are extenuating circumstances, like Quade this year,” Waugh added.
“We’re now just figuring out the appropriate number for the cap and then, it’s about figuring out the appropriate governance, so you can appropriately assess each exemption.
“This tour, you may see a couple more exemptions than we would otherwise.
“But once they’re back, we will set a policy that’s constituted and then ensure there is enough fluidity to ensure if it needs change, we can change to what’s the most appropriate for rugby in Australia.
“That’s our overarching principle. How do we ensure that we’re serving rugby in Australia in its best interests, not just in the short term but in the long term as well?”
While many might choose to see the law repealed altogether, Rugby Australia will still aim to use it as a lure for players to remain closer to home rather than pursue opportunities overseas.
RugbyPass recently reported Rugby Australia is close to adopting a centralised contract model—similar to Wales, Ireland and New Zealand—that would see it take greater control over the Super Rugby franchises.
It's believed the organisation will look to use emerging star Andrew Kellaway as an advertisement for playing in Australia after he's found success with Melbourne Rebels following spells in England and Japan.
Kellaway, 25, has eight tries in nine Test outings and was the Rugby Championship's top try-scorer with seven in total, a surprising turnaround after he failed to make waves at Northampton and Green Rockets Tokatsu.
“It’s a combination of ensuring we’re developing players and our pathways here as best we possibly can, so they don’t have to go offshore to get that development,” Waugh continued.
“But the preference will always be to select players that are based locally.
“Where the depth isn’t so great in specific positions, that’s where you use the policy to attract those players back into playing international rugby and into Super Rugby.”
The Wallabies are expected to welcome Will Skelton, Rory Arnold and Tolu Latu—each of whom play in France's Top 14—back into the squad for their fixtures in the northern hemisphere.
This could signal the first significant change in regards to relaxing the Giteau Law, or at least expanding the number of exceptions allowed should the likes of Kerevi and Cooper also remain with the squad this autumn.
Australia will visit Japan for a fixture on October 23 before embarking on the European leg of their tour, where they'll face Scotland, England and Wales during November.
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