Wallabies introduce sabbaticals for key players

Getty Images     29 Aug 2014     Getty Images

The changes were approved by the ARU Board on Monday this week and will see the introduction of ‘flexible contracts’ for a select number of players who commit their future to Australian Rugby on long term-deals.

From 2016, the ARU will have the ability to offer players the opportunity to play one season in a foreign domestic competition during the course of a long-term contract with Australian Rugby.

In addition, players who represent Australia in Rugby Sevens at the 2016 Olympics will be granted permission to play the 2016/17 Japanese domestic season without affecting their eligibility for the Wallabies upon their return in 2017.

Flexible contracts allow the ARU and Investec Super Rugby provinces to reward players deemed to be making a significant contribution to Rugby in Australia.

Nationally Contracted Players – The ARU will exclusively manage the number of flexible contracts it negotiates with Nationally Contracted Players to ensure the pool of players available for Test selection is sufficiently strong each year.

Non-Nationally Contracted Players – Each Super Rugby team will be permitted one flexible contract per season for non-Nationally Contracted players.

ARU CEO Bill Pulver said the new policy will help retain players in the country long-term.

“We’ve recognised that in the context of an increasingly global market for Rugby players that we need to take a more flexible approach to player contracting,” Mr Pulver said.

“As such, we need to be proactive and adapt our policies to best serve the interests of Rugby in Australia.

“By adopting a flexible contracting model, we’re creating a platform for our players to experience what Rugby has to offer in Australia and abroad, all while maintaining their allegiance to Australian Rugby over a long-term period.

“We’re confident this flexibility will encourage players to make significant long-term commitments to Australian Rugby and help us to minimise the number of players who permanently re-locate to foreign leagues.

“Decisions regarding all flexible contracts will be made on a case-by-case basis, understanding that our key priority remains that the Wallabies and Super Rugby provinces have a strong and deep playing pool of talent available each year.”

The changes follow recommendations made by Australian Rugby’s Player Contracting Working Group which has been reviewing all elements of player contracting in Australia.

None of the changes will alter Australian Rugby’s policy that only players who are playing in Australia will be eligible to play for the Qantas Wallabies.

It does however provide greater flexibility in the contracting process by allowing select players the opportunity to become eligible for Test representation at different points of the year.

Previously, players were not eligible to represent the Wallabies unless they were registered in Australia at the start of the Super Rugby season, and were available for selection in a full domestic season throughout the course of the year.