Rugby Australia told to further ease Wallabies criteria
SPOTLIGHT: Former Wallaby fullback Chris Latham has urged Rugby Australia to continue loosening Wallabies eligibility laws, saying they must embrace the inevitable urge for top-line players to chase big-money overseas deals.
Australia saw what they have been missing in Sunday’s defeat of world champions South Africa with Samu Kerevi’s dominance in the No.12 jersey.
Sean McMahon has also joined the squad, the pair both contracted in Japan and only allowed to play for Australia under a relaxation of the 60-Test qualification Giteau Law established in 2015.
COVID-19 has allowed for some wiggle room, with coach Dave Rennie now able to pick two players who don’t meet that criteria.
Latham wants RA to go further though, given there are many others overseas that would arguably strengthen the squad ahead of the 2023 World Cup.
Will Skelton and fellow lock Rory Arnold are dominating in France while Wallabies wing Marika Koroibete, one of Rennie’s first picked, will also head to Japan next season.
Quade Cooper, who with 71 Tests meets the current criteria, has also successfully rejoined the Test fray after four years from the Japanese league in a nod to the improving product that is luring Australians on big-money deals.
“It’s great when guys are eligible isn’t it,” Latham said of Kerevi and potentially McMahon’s impact ahead of Saturday’s Rugby Championship rematch with South Africa in Brisbane.
“All of a sudden you’ve got options, you can start to pick on performance, put pressure on individuals and even get the opposition to start guessing who they’re going to pick and what game plan they’re going to go with.”
— Wallabies (@wallabies) September 12, 2021
He said Rugby Australia needed to continue to relax the Giteau Law and offer players overseas sabbaticals, but that players would leave knowing their Wallabies future was not guaranteed.
“I’m all for it, we need to find a better balance of being able to bring back our stars and find a way they can still go and get that type of money in Japan or wherever for a year or two and have the ability to have them play for the Wallabies as well,” he said.
“It’s inevitable so you may as well embrace it.”
With a 2027 World Cup bid in the pipeline, former Wallabies playmaker Elton Flatley stressed that “rugby needs to win the hearts and minds of young boys and girls”.
“And to do that we need the Wallabies to be successful. If that’s getting the guys overseas that can make them better I’m all for it,” he said.
Latham has coached in Japan and says the competition has reached a point where, like Wallabies captain Michael Hooper did last season, players can go and return a better player, not just fill their bank account.
“It had a reputation 10, 15 years ago of being a slow, static competition where older players not good enough to play for their country or state could play,” he said.
“It’s not that anymore.
“As much as you’d like to keep the talent in Australia … it’s just not possible.
“I’ve done it myself; at the end of the day you’re only a footy player for a short window and you do the most you can for your family.
“If that’s to take a year or two to go over and still be eligible, then you’ve got to make those adjustments.”