Rugby Australia to cap Giteau Law exemptions

One of the powerbrokers tasked with changing Rugby Australia’s eligibility laws says they plan to put a cap on how many overseas-based players can be selected, and will use Andrew Kellaway as an example to convince players their best chance of being picked is by playing at home.

Former Wallabies captain Phil Waugh is one of three members on the RA board’s rugby committee, along with Daniel Herbert and CEO Andy Marinos. The trio are set to make the formal recommendation on Giteau Law changes, as part of a wider high-performance review, after the Wallabies return from the spring tour.

Second-year coach Dave Rennie has been praised for steering the Wallabies to four straight wins for the first time in four years to close the Rugby Championship but “fluid” eligibility reform during the COVID-19 period – pushed by Waugh, Herbert and Marinos – also played a big role.

The trio approved Rennie’s request to include Samu Kerevi, Sean McMahon and Duncan Paia’aua in the squad and have done the same for the return of European-based stars for the spring tour.

“When we looked at the performance and the lack of board oversight on performance, between Hamish, Herby and myself, we looked at it and decided we needed to lean into this area more,” Waugh told the Herald.

“To not only provide support for the high-performance unit and Andy, but also to make sure the board has appropriate oversight on what’s occurring within the high-performance unit and the performance of our national team, which we’re ultimately responsible for.

Andrew Kellaway bagged three tries for the Wallabies on Saturday.Credit:AP

“It was really fluid, to be fair. We needed to lean in and drive greater performance outcomes than what we were experiencing.”

The success of the approach has led to a willingness for the Wallabies to ease the Giteau Law guidelines, which state a player must have 60 Test caps and seven years of Super Rugby experience to be eligible for selection while abroad.

But Waugh and RA are not willing to remove the eligibility rules altogether and plan to introduce a limit on how many overseas-based players can be picked, with some needs-based flexibility built in.

“You put a cap on it, but you have the ability to exceed that cap on an exemption basis. If there are extenuating circumstances, like Quade this year,” Waugh said.

“We’re now just figuring out the appropriate number for the cap and then, it’s about figuring out the appropriate governance, so you can appropriately assess each exemption.

“This tour, you may see a couple more exemptions than we would otherwise.

“But once they’re back, we will set a policy that’s constituted and then ensure there is enough fluidity to ensure if it needs change, we can change to what’s the most appropriate for rugby in Australia.

“That’s our overarching principle. How do we ensure that we’re serving rugby in Australia in its best interests, not just in the short term but in the long term as well?”

The committee plan to use the example of Kellaway as a lure to overseas-based, fringe players not currently in the selection frame. Kellaway, who left to play in England and Japan before returning to the Rebels, has been a revelation for the Wallabies after getting a call-up this year.

“It’s a combination of ensuring we’re developing players and our pathways here as best we possibly can, so they don’t have to go offshore to get that development,” Waugh said.

“But the preference will always be to select players that are based locally.

“Where the depth isn’t so great in specific positions, that’s where you use the policy to attract those players back into playing international rugby and into Super Rugby.”

The committee meets once per week, and is also charged with deciding the future of the Australian sevens program.

The coaches in both programs have been asked to re-apply for their jobs as part of a restructure after a failure to fire at the Tokyo Olympics.

The committee will also make a recommendation to the board regarding the future role of director of rugby Scott Johnson, whose contract expires at the end of the year.

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