Ewen McKenzie has been reported in the press today as saying that he will not consider any player who is not signed with a Super Rugby franchise for selection for the 2015 World Cup. This is absolutely the right decision from the coach and is to be lauded.
To quote the coach:
“You can’t have guys cherry picking their way through and grabbing all the trinkets along the way, you’ve actually got to make a commitment”
“We need people to invest in Australian rugby, so they’re around promoting the game, pressing the flesh, doing the coaching clinics, developing the game on and off the field:
Well said Link!!!!
This is, of course, different to the contracting position in South African rugby where players may take contracts outside of Super Rugby and still be selected for the Springboks. That said, there is a very key distinction between the state of the game in South Africa and Australia. In Australia, Rugby Union is running a distant 3rd as a winter sport to the NRL and AFL whereas in South Africa rugby union is the national game. The need for the stars of the game in Australia to commit to the game here and thereby invest in rugby in the fashion suggested by Ewen McKenzie has probably never been more important.
All of this means that players of the like of Digby Ioane, Berrick Barnes, James O’Conner and Drew Mitchell will all miss out on selection in the 2015 World Cup unless they are back in Super 15 colours by the start of the 2015 season. Ioane, of that quartet, is the only one that really presents as a prospect for the 2015 World Cup in my view and will have a decision as to whether he follows his wallet or his heart.
Rugby in this country has many disadvantages and does not need to reduce its image further by resorting to players who do not support the game and its development in this country no matter who good they might project to be in the team. For taking this stand the ARU and the coach are to be saluted. Now bring on this weekend’s test match and then, in February 2014, the start of Super 15 rugby!