New Zealand Rugby won't change eligibility rule despite growing player drain

Tew doesn't see All Blacks eligibility rule changes despite talent heading offshore.
Tew doesn't see All Blacks eligibility rule changes despite talent heading offshore. Photo credit: Getty

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) is in active conversations with overseas clubs as they look to manage the growing player drain - but don't expect any changes to the current eligibility rule.

NZME recently reported that NZR was looking to muscle foreign clubs into deals that would allow local players to head overseas on big money contracts, only to return in time for Rugby World Cups.

The report stated that NZR was looking at relationships with clubs interested in adopting a 'New Zealand' style of rugby and reap the rewards with a flow of Kiwi talent ingested into their side.

NZR CEO Steve Tew has rubbished that report, stating they would be foolish to think they could influence the planning of foreign rugby sides.

"They have their own desires. They invest very heavily in player salaries and they want their money's worth," Tew told Brendan Telfer on RadioLIVE.

Tew admitted that they have open discussions with a variety of overseas clubs, executives, coaches and players but talk of a player swap program is absurd.

"We are not trying to pose anything on anybody. We are simply opening up channels of dialogue with a lot of people around the world and some of those are affiliated to clubs in the UK.

"The reality is that we have been talking to a number of clubs around the world for quite some time.

"There are some clubs in which we have good, strong connections with.

"Harlequins (England) is one as an example. We could have a more managed approach to some players playing there. "

Tew reiterated NZR's eligibility rule and he couldn't foresee any changes to it.

"If a player who is overseas wants to come back and play for the All Blacks, our rules are very clear. They need to come back and play in New Zealand first to be eligible for the black jersey.

"We have got a myriad of things we can do to stay in New Zealand and encourage players, once they leave New Zealand, to stay in touch because if they want to come back the option is always there.

"The player market is tough. We are losing a lot of players oversees and we are trying to do all the things we can possibly think of to mitigate that as best we can.

"We are not at this stage entertaining the idea of changing our rule that you must play in New Zealand to be eligible for the All Blacks."

Listen to Brendan Telfer every Saturday on RadioLIVE.
Listen to Brendan Telfer every Saturday on RadioLIVE.

Tew also came to the defence of the All Blacks coaching staff who had been criticised in some circles this past week with news of four national training camps to be held during the Super Rugby season.

Tew said the camps were imperative in allowing All Blacks coach Steve Hansen and his staff the time to assess the players' fitness and form given they will only have a week with the squad in June before the first Test of the year against France.

Tew said the process had been an open one with New Zealand's Super Rugby franchises, admitting they had given concessions during the discussions surrounding the camps.

"We have two one-day camps early on. Then we have two longer camps later in the season where the players will be there from Sunday through Tuesday.

"That gives the players enough time to get back to their teams and be available to play on that weekend in most cases.

"There have been on-going discussions between our guys and the Super Rugby folks for quite a few months and we have made a lot of modification to what we initially planned and what we have now is the best compromise that we could come up with."