Rugby AU shuts door on changes to Giteau Law ahead of World Cup

by Emma Greenwood

Rugby Australia has all but closed the door on altering the Giteau Law ahead of the World Cup in response to South Africa's radical contract overhaul.

Rugby AU chief executive Raelene Castle said while the rule was reviewed often, the organisation was comfortable with current guidelines which allow overseas-based players to be eligible for Wallabies selection if they have 60 Tests and seven seasons of Super Rugby experience.

South Africa announced changes at the weekend to scrap its 30 Test eligibility rule for overseas players in a move many believe Australia should follow.

But Castle said there would be no rush to change.

"At the moment, we're very comfortable with the way it's performing," she said.

"The Giteau law for us is a rule that's in place that we review often because we need to make sure that it's delivering to the outcomes that we put it in place for.

"And we believe it is, we believe the benchmark is right as a 60-Test threshold because if you've played 60 tests for your country you deserve the chance to look at other options because you have the training maturity and the professionalism to come back into the Wallaby environment and fit right in.

"We think from a going overseas perspective it's right, we think probably if we lowered it, what it does do is potentially have us lose some of the current talent that we have playing here in Super Rugby.

"And Super Rugby is also incredibly important for us because we need to make sure that our four teams are successful in the Super Rugby competition."

While some believe the South African move will lead to a decimation of Super Rugby clubs, it is designed to prevent the exodus of players from the country due to the riches offered overseas.

SA Rugby said it would "rigorously enforce" World Rugby's Regulation 9 which protects its rights to recall players for international duty.

Castle believes that move will prevent a major talent drain from the Super Rugby clubs.

"The strategy of South African rugby is to make sure that they impart their right under World Rugby Regulation 9 to have the players released at all stages," she said.

"If you're paying someone a lot of money to play and he's not able to play for you because he's back in South Africa, that's possibly not ideal.

"And I think also the reality of their decision is that works for them because 12 hours up and back on the plane is achievable, whereas 24 hours to get from the UK and Australia and back again, is probably not realistic.

"There's some differences in views. The All Blacks have no rule, so if you're not playing in Super Rugby, you don't get selected for the All Blacks, we have a 60-cap threshold and that works for us."


While there have been some calls for RA to follow the South African lead, former Wallaby Ben Darwin believes the "ramifications of this decision will be pretty dire".

Darwin is a director of Gainline Analytics, a company that has broken down statistics around the success of open selection policies.

In Rugby World Cups since 1999, full small system domestic teams, that is, countries with the entirety of their squad playing domestically and with few foreign players in their competitions, have won 87.5 per cent of their matches.

Countries such as France and England, who only select locally-based players but have a large influx of overseas talent in their club competitions, win 74.5 per cent.

With laws such as Australia’s Giteau Law and South Africa’s previous 30-cap restriction for overseas players, the win rate goes to 58.2 per cent and when players are allowed to be picked from anywhere, that rate falls to just 14 per cent historically.

Darwin said the data showed that factors like cohesion tend to be far more important for success than simply having the most talent to pick.

"Teams that draw their players from just the local teams do much better historically at World Cups," Darwin said.

"Generally, the drivers of success for a World Cup is that it's not about the national team alone, it's as much about the clubs and the states.

"Most success comes off the base of cohesion that comes out of club level."