While there may be some flexibility allowed when injuries come into play, Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has confirmed that the number of foreign-based players who are able to be selected in next year’s World Cup squad will be determined in the coming months.
The ‘Giteau Law’ was brought into effect in 2015, permitting players based outside of Australia to be brought into the Wallabies squad provided they had played 60 Tests for the country before heading offshore.
In 2020, two additional overseas players were eligible for selection, regardless of their Test experience.
The law was significantly altered in 2022, allowing the Wallabies coach to select up to three foreign-based players with at least 30 caps in any one squad.
Since Rennie took over as head coach in 2020, almost a dozen players who have been based outside of Australia have earned selection for the Wallabies, including the likes of Quade Cooper, Bernard Foley, Duncan Paia’aua, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Rory Arnold, Will Skelton, Tolu Latu, Ollie Hoskins, Colby Fainga’a and Kurtley Beale.
This year, Cooper, Foley, Kerevi, Koroibete, Arnold and Skelton have all been utilised by the Wallabies at various stages throughout the season.
With a World Cup on the line in 2023, Rugby Australia could give Rennie the option to select as many foreign stars as necessary to give the Wallabies the best possible chance of chasing glory as, under the current laws, three of the players called up this season would miss out on playing at next year’s showpiece tournament.
“There’s a handful of players who are playing overseas now who could come into contention and we haven’t fixed on the number of foreign players that would be in a World Cup side,” Rennie said on Thursday.
“That’s a work in progress,” he later added. “I mean our concern around [being restricted to] three could be… I’ll give you an example. Let’s say we have a big run of injuries in one position and now we need to grab an overseas play maybe to fill that hole. Does that mean that someone like Samu Kerevi or Quade Cooper or Marika Koroibete misses out because we’re restricted in our numbers? So we’re having those conversations at the moment.”
Rennie reaffirmed that while the goal is also to develop players in Australia as much as possible, overseas players will always help to bulk up a squad – especially when injuries come into play.
“We’ve made a real effort to pick from home, so we haven’t had a massive overseas influence this year,” he said. “I think we were allowed three (overseas players) on this tour. We’ve only had two. We had less than [three] in the Rugby Championship when Quade got injured. So yeah, we’ve really to try and develop guys at home.
“But yeah, I guess to have a little bit of insurance around if we have injuries and get put under pressure in certain positions, we don’t necessarily want to have to hamstring us in other spots.
“We’ve got to sit down with the board and have a chat around their views on it. We’ll sell a case as to what we think’s best for the team and best for the country and we’ll settle on something in the new year.”
With so many potential players plying their trade outside of Australia, it presents a different challenge for Rennie than coaches of the past. Given the bulk tend to play in Japan, Rennie will make a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun early in 2023 to catch up with the likes of Cooper, Koroibete and Kerevi.
“It’s all around relationships,” he said, “so the plan would be early next year I’ll head to Japan, spend time in the clubs and catch up with players. They’ve already got programs from an S&C (strength and conditioning) perspective. Kieran Cleary’s got a strong connection with those guys as well. So any medical support they need or any S&C, we’re working with the clubs and with the individuals.
“What we know is it’s a World Cup year and players are going to do everything they can to make sure they’re in the best possible nick to get selected. And if they’re not, then they won’t be.”
The Wallabies will play their final Test of the season on Saturday against Wales in Cardiff. The fixture is set to kick off at 3:15pm GMT.