The Australian Rugby Union have taken the pragmatic step of allowing up to 10 international representatives to be selected for the Melbourne Rebels Super 15 team in its first year.
The norm is for Aussie teams to be allowed only two non-Australian representatives, although only one of these may have played international rugby for another country – i.e. at least one of the two imports must be eligible to qualify for Wallaby selection in due course. This ruling is itself a recent relaxation – in the past, only players immediately eligible for the Wallabies could be picked by Australia’s four Super Rugby teams.
This year will see the likes of Andre Pretorius (Western Force) and Soseni Anesi (Waratahs) play for Australian sides as foreign “marquee players”.
Australia’s traditional problem, though, has been a lack of players numbers and the introduction of a fourth franchise in the Force has only served to exacerbate the regular end-of-season player merry-go-round. The recently retired Scott Fava became the first player, in 2009, to have represented all four teams. There are numerous others not far behind.
The ARU is obviously concerned that the creation of the Melbourne franchise will simply dilute the other four teams, just as the Western Force led to an immediate slump in the Brumbies’ form as a number of their top players defected to Perth. By relaxing the foreign player restriction, the Rebels will be free to build their team and their brand on the back of disgruntled expats, presumably from the other SANZAR countries and the Pacific Islands. The quota will be reduced each season, until the 2015 season, when the Rebels will be required to comply with the same criteria as the other four franchises.
Seems the ARU are hell-bent on making this one work. Now if only they could find a sponsor who is prepared to put up the money…Tweet