Rugby Australia have today announced an addition to its policy regarding the eligibility and selection of overseas-based players for the Qantas Wallabies.
This change is only for the remainder of 2020 and recognises the significant and unprecedented impact caused by COVID-19 on the game in Australia and around the world.
The amendment will allow for a maximum of two players, who do not meet the 60-cap and seven-year service threshold, to be selected by Qantas Wallabies selectors during World Rugby’s nominated international windows.
The addition allows greater flexibility and scope for Wallabies selectors while still prioritising the selection of players based in Australia.
The process also includes a consultation phase between Wallabies selectors, the Australian Super Rugby sides and Rugby Australia’s Governance and Policy subcommittee, which consists of Rugby Australia Board Directors Daniel Herbert, Phil Waugh and Hayden Rorke. Endorsement from the full Rugby Australia Board will then be required to proceed with the recommendation.
Players returning to Australia from overseas who make a two-year commitment to an Australian Super Rugby Club will still be eligible to represent the Qantas Wallabies immediately upon their return. There will also be a consultation phase between Wallabies selectors, the Australian Super Rugby sides and Rugby Australia’s Governance and Policy subcommittee for players selected via this criteria (or the 60-cap and seven-year service threshold) before full Rugby Australia Board approval. This is an additional level of consultation that was not previously required under the policy and will continue beyond this year’s Test calendar.
The amendment for the 2020 international season has been endorsed by the Chairs and Chief Executives of each of Australia’s Super Rugby sides.
Rugby Australia interim Chief Executive Rob Clarke said: “This is a prudent and measured step in response to the unprecedented impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Australian Rugby and the broader Rugby community.
“Dave (Rennie) will soon assemble his squad and they’re likely to remain in a ‘bubble’ for 10 weeks with no opportunity to call in replacements for injury due to the quarantined environment. It will be a real test for those players selected, and the Wallabies management team, but I know they are incredibly excited about the opportunity.
“We are being quite clear that this addition is for this year only but that we will continue to review the entire policy from time to time, as required,” Clarke said.
Qantas Wallabies Head Coach Dave Rennie said: “First and foremost, it is crucial that we recognise those players who are currently making a daily contribution to Rugby in Australia, and that will be reflected in the squad we name for this year’s Test season.
“We now have the chance to select one or two players based overseas who don’t meet the current criteria and they’ll not only add some experience to our group but be able to guide our young players to help their development.
“We are also looking long term though. We want to bring players back to play Super Rugby here in Australia, especially those who are passionate about playing for the Wallabies, get them excited about being in the environment again and this is a great way to encourage that,” Rennie said.
This addition follows a revised policy announced in April 2015, where players based overseas were eligible for Wallabies selection if they have played more than 60 Tests for Australia and held a professional contract with Australia Rugby for at least seven years.
As agreed by the SANZAAR joint venture, the squad size for each nation will increase to 46 for this year’s Test season to preserve competition integrity and high performance standards while maintaining strict COVID-19 quarantine compliance.