The big name missing as Wallabies legend picks his three OS stars under new rules

Wallabies legend Tim Horan says it’s a case of Samu Kerevi plus two as Wallabies coach Dave Rennie deals with new eligibility rules restricting him to three overseas based players in the lead up to the 2023 World Cup.

Rugby Australia announced the new criteria to replace the Giteau Law, halving the required number of Test played from 60 to 30, but restricting the number for any tournament to three players.

Horan says Rennie could be tempted to use nine different players across the three major commitments this year – the series against England, The Rugby Championship and Spring Tour – to give himself the best chance of settling on his strongest squad for 2023.

The rules have sparked plenty of debate over who are the best OS based players fitting the 30-cap eligibiity, and Horan has added to it. Asked who he would pick today as a World Cup trio, Horan left out incumbent flyhalf Quade Cooper.

“With three players from overseas I’d definitely say that Samu Kerevi holds one of those, then you have to work out who are the other two. Quade is going to be in the talks, Rory Arnold, Sean McMahon… I think what Dave Rennie has to work out is who are the three that he wants to take through to the World Cup. “

Horan said he would opt for Kerevi, Arnold and Marika Koribete.

“The World Cup might be just a bit too far out for Quade,” Horan said. “I love Quade – he’s a wonderful player and for what he’s achieved in the game. And the job that he did last year for those four or five weeks was perfect.

“But that’s another 20-odd months to the World Cup, that’s a long time away. “

Horan said there was no certainly Rennie would use all three spots this season.

“It’s going to be a pretty important call for Dave and the selectors. He might only nominate one player in the English series, he might say they only need Samu Kerevi because the form of the current players domestically is what he’s looking for.”

Horan said overall the rules were positive for fans and struck a fair balance between giving opportunities for the elite to challenge for places and play overseas, as well as safeguarding the domestic competition to a large degree.

“I think it’s a bit of sitting on the fence both ways,” Horan added. “And I get it. It will prompt some players to stay in Australia for longer. If you had an open slather, a lot of players staying here for less money would want to know they’ve got the opportunity to play for the Wallabies.”

Rennie has shown impressive diplomacy on the issue. As a national coach it’s surely in his best short term interest to have carte blanche on selections, but the Kiwi has always come at the issue with a wider point of view around protecting domestic rugby.

“He’s very respectful of the Super Rugby teams in Australia and how they’ve got to promote the game in Australia,” Horan said. “There has got to be a hook to keep players in Australia to play in the gold jerseys. I think it’s a pretty fair result.”

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In the last two years, Rennie was given several “exemptions” due to COVID-19.

RA boss Andy Marinos said the amendments, which also apply to the Wallaroos and Sevens teams, would help Australia compete internationally while maintaining the strength of the local league.

He said after reviewing the 2021 season and discussions with Rennie and other national coaches they settled on three.

“We looked at our depth and the players that are currently playing overseas that could come into contention and we’re comfortable that’s right number,” Marinos said.

“It’s really important that we respect the integrity of our domestic competition and ensure there’s always going to be the high priority around selecting players from home in the first instance so we don’t need to have more than three.

“We’re confident that that’s the right number to take us to the World Cup.”

Marinos said that while there was a “massive gulf” in what the southern hemisphere could offer financially compare to the northern hemisphere, they couldn’t open the floodgates.

He feared that by allowing Australia’s top talent to play overseas it would harm player pathways as well as grass roots rugby.

“Our message is simple, if you want to put yourself in the shop window for international selection you are still best served playing at home,” he said.

“There’s a lot of really good talent … when you look at the players that are actually playing here versus those that are eligible and sitting outside of our shores, it’s not like there’s 50 or 60 players that we are forgetting about outside of Australia. 

“A lot of the talent and a lot of the future of what’s going to be taking us to the World Cup is currently contracted in Australia.”

(With AAP)

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