New Zealand Rugby won’t follow Australia’s lead in allowing overseas-based players to represent their country, chief executive Steve Tew says.
Looking to fend off cashed-up European and Japanese clubs targeting Australia’s blue-chip rugby stocks, the Australian Rugby Union has decided to allow an elite few overseas-based players to represent the Wallabies.
France-based Australian trio Matt Giteau, Drew Mitchell and George Smith are all now eligible for the World Cup because they meet the strict criteria of having played at least 60 Tests and also held contracts with the ARU for seven seasons or more.
Australia’s move means New Zealand and England are the only major rugby-playing nations that select only home-based players for their national side.
Tew told media after NZR’s annual meeting in Wellington on Thursday that no change was planned to the All Blacks’ selection criteria.
“Funnily enough, we don’t follow necessarily Australia’s lead on everything that happens over there,” he said.
“Our policy has held us in good stead, and we’ll continue it.
“You can never say never, and policies need to be reviewed on a regular cycle, but right now there is no indication we’ll be looking to change that decision.”
Tew said New Zealand has had a strong run of player retention over two World Cup cycles, and it was inevitable there would be a loss of experience after the 2015 event in England.
A number of New Zealand players have already signalled their intention to join the exodus offshore, including young Blues backs Charles Piutau and Francis Saili, and Crusaders pair Colin Slade and Tom Taylor.
“The money has always been greater than we can offer,” Tew said.
“What we’re investing has increased but ultimately we will never bridge the gap with some of the offers that are coming out of particularly the French clubs.
“There’s no economic sense to it, there’s no point in browbeating – it’s just the reality that we’ll lose some players to that environment.”
Player retention was an ongoing concern, he added, with players such as prop Carl Hayman and midfielder Luke McAlister having left All Blacks ranks earlier than was ideal.
“We’re not panicking – we’re under pressure, but we have been for a long period of time.”