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Kerevi, Skelton in the frame to play for Wallabies again as Rugby Australia amends eligibility laws

Thu, 10/09/2020, 6:00 am
Christy Doran
by Christy Doran
Samu Kerevi could once again feature for the Wallabies in 2020 despite moving offshore. Photo: Getty Images
Samu Kerevi could once again feature for the Wallabies in 2020 despite moving offshore. Photo: Getty Images

World Cup members Samu Kerevi and Rory Arnold will once again come into the frame to play for the Wallabies in 2020, after Rugby Australia announced an amendment to their selection policy for 2020 only ahead of the Test season.

In addition to the 'Giteau Law' - that allows for foreign-based players who have played 60 Tests and given seven years of service to the code in Australia - RA will allow for a maximum of two players to be selected during World Rugby's international window.

“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," Rugby Australia interim Chief Executive Rob Clarke said.

“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."

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As a matter of checks and balances, proposed players will have to go through a consultation phase between Wallabies selectors, the Australian Super rugby sides and RA's Governance and Policy subcommittee before final sign off from the Board.

The amendment follows the outbreak of COVID-19, which has placed huge financial stress on the code.

Queensland Reds trio Izack Rodda, Harry Hockings and Isaac Lucas all chose not to accept pay reductions earlier in the year, which were negotiated between the Rugby Union Players' Association and Rugby Australia, and have since left Australian rugby.

But the amendment allows greater flexibility and scope for the Wallabies' selectors while still placing an emphasis on home talent playing in Super Rugby AU.

It means that the likes of Kerevi and Arnold, as well as hooker Tolu Latu and playmaker Christian Lealiifano, who each played for the Wallabies during last year's World Cup, will be eligible to bolster the Wallabies' Rugby Championship campaign.

Others such as Will Skelton, Liam Gill, Sean McMahon and Taqele Naiyaravoro could also come into the frame.

It's a massive boost for New Zealander Dave Rennie, who is yet to get his hands on the Wallabies since being announced as Michael Cheika's successor last November.

Rennie will announce his Wallabies squad on Sunday afternoon, which is expected to be an enlarged group of 46 players following SANZAAR's decision to increase the number to preserve competition integrity and high performance standards while maintaining strict COVID-19 quarantine compliance.

“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," Rennie said.

“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."

The Wallabies are currently seventh on the World Rugby rankings following their quarter-final exit at last year's World Cup in Japan.

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The Bledisloe Cup series and The Rugby Championship Tests have yet to be confirmed for 2020.

But a meeting between SANZAAR and the host unions on Thursday night is hoped to confirm the Test calendar. 

Last month, World Rugby changed the international window to allow SANZAAR nations to pick overseas players for the entirety of The Rugby Championship.

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