Former Wales captain Dai Young has urged England to stick with their policy of only selecting home-based players for international matches, saying Wales’ decision to pick stars at overseas clubs had “wrecked” regional rugby in his homeland.
Young’s comments came after the Australian Rugby Union announced on Wednesday it was relaxing its eligibility rules.
Previously, overseas-based players were barred from Wallaby selection but with the Australian game facing a mass exodus of stars such as Adam Ashley-Cooper, former skipper James Horwill, Will Genia and Sekope Kepu following this year’s World Cup in England, the ARU has softened its stance.
The ARU said the rules would be relaxed for players who have pulled on a Wallaby jersey more than 60 times and held a professional contract with Australian rugby for at least seven years.
England currently has a policy of selecting only players with one of the country’s 12 Premiership clubs, save in “exceptional circumstances” only.
With the World Cup starting in September, there has been a debate about whether England should recall flanker Steffon Armitage, the current European player of the year, who is with French-based Toulon, where he plays with the one-time highest-paid Wallaby and reigning France player of the year Matt Giteau.
Young cited events in Wales, where attendances for regional or senior club rugby have nosedived in recent years, while key players such as Leigh Halfpenny and Jamie Roberts have taken up lucrative contracts, as proof of what can happen when players are allowed to go abroad without it damaging their Test prospects.
“You see falling crowds (in Wales), everybody wants to see their top stars. The games aren’t as attractive with your top stars not playing,” said former hooker Young, capped 51 times by Wales.
“You lose control over your players as well, as in their fitness, their condition and their welfare and so on.
“To me England’s stance is absolutely right and they should stick to it, otherwise you will see the quality of the Premiership dwindle.
“I’ve seen it from Wales, and it’s done much more harm than good allowing players to go. I certainly think England’s stance is by far the best.”
The ARU recently announced a $6.3 million loss for 2014 and, given the lucrative deals on offer to top players from wealthy clubs in Europe and Japan, it argued it had little choice but to relax its rules.
Officials hope a change in the eligibility rules will bolster the chances of two-time former world champions Australia remaining a major global force in the game.
“In the end, we want the best players being rewarded for playing the majority of their career in Australia, and this is an important step to the future growth and success of the Wallabies,” said Michael Cheika, the Australia coach.