Rugby’s contentious rule that forbids players representing more than one country is back on the table.
Knocked back by the International Rugby Board last December, the issue has been reopened for discussion after being aired again at the IRB’s latest meeting in Dublin.
Duncan Johnstone writes for the Sydney Morning Herald that it is seen as a potential boost to the competitiveness of many second tier nations, most notably the Pacific islands who have many leading players lured away by the All Blacks and Wallabies.
“We have got an opportunity for the regulation that allows players to play for a second country to be reconsidered,” NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said from Dublin.
“It was looking like it was going to hit a wall at the meeting but we have at least managed to get it to go back to unions for further consultation.”
But Tew is realistic with the rule needing a 75 percent majority to be passed: “Frankly it is a big hill to climb. There is some pretty strong opposition in the north. But at least we have got another shot at it.”
At the moment the IRB rules are strict – once a player represents one country that’s his lot for life.
New Zealand is keen on seeing the rule amended to allow for more leniencies believing it can help the game in the Pacific.
While rugby wouldn’t want to fall into the loose rules that cover eligibility in league, there appears to be some merit in relaxing the legislation.
Rugby is littered with players who have their hands tied through limited appearances.
Sosene Anesi’s 12 minutes as an All Black in 2005 cost him any chance of playing for Samoa. But it works the other way too – a young Isa Nacewa played a handful of minutes for Fiji at the 2003 World Cup which was a disaster for his All Blacks aspirations
There are many former internationals still playing with enough miles left on their clocks to make useful contributions to their lesser test teams.
Former All Blacks Doug Howlett, Sam Tuitupou, Sione Lauaki and Saimone Taumoepeau would all come into the frame for Tonga.
Samoa could be boosted by the likes of Jerry Collins, Chris Masoe, Anesi and Casey Laulala.
Meanwhile Tew was enthusiastic about the changes approved to the international touring schedule.
The IRB has mapped out a 10-year schedule from 2012 that will see Six Nations teams touring Sanzar countries in June and playing three test series with also the possibility of midweek matches.
Tew said that coming on top of the initiative last week that opened the way for leading Pumas to be available for the Argentina side to contest the 2012 Four Nations tournament, New Zealand rugby now had a solid calendar in front of it.
“Having the international match schedule locked in place is an important piece of certainty for our own planning and comfort,” Tew said.
Tew paid tribute to New Zealand’s Neil Sorenson who was part of the working party that got the changes through.
“They have done the hard yards and done a good job.”
He believed a three-test series would have more benefits than the current inbound tours in June that see the All Blacks play one opponent twice and another once.
Tew said the inbound tours from 2012 would be announced shortly once New Zealand had signed off with their opponents.Tweet