Rugby-Savea calls for change in All Blacks’ eligibility regulations

By Thomson Reuters Mar 29, 2024 | 11:26 PM

(Reuters) – All Blacks forward Ardie Savea has called on New Zealand’s rugby authorities to consider updating the country’s eligibility rules or risk being left behind as the sport continues to evolve.

Savea is unavailable for selection by new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson after leaving New Zealand in December to take up a lucrative contract with Kobe Steelers in the Japan Rugby League One.

But World Rugby’s reigning Player of the Year wants New Zealand Rugby to reconsider the rule that only allows domestic-based players to be selected for the All Blacks.

“Times are changing,” Savea told New Zealand media. “Things are moving fast. What worked five, 10, 15 years ago maybe can’t work now. We’ve just got to be innovative and smart around what we’re doing.

“The country that’s proven that it works, that it helps, is South Africa. The majority of their team’s playing (offshore) and they come together and win the World Cup.

“I don’t think it’s going to change drastically, but I just think that something needs to evolve and grow.”

Many of the South African squad that won the second of back-to-back Rugby World Cup titles in France last year play overseas, with Savea joined in Japan by the likes of Faf de Klerk, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Cheslin Kolbe.

Savea is not the only high-profile New Zealander to have moved away from home, with Brodie Retallick and Richie Mo’unga among those contracted to Japan Rugby League One clubs.

Other nations have similar eligibility rules to those in place in New Zealand, but Savea believes the experience gained due to the growing internationalisation of the club game is improving him as a player.

“I think that’s the best thing about being out of New Zealand – I’m playing against guys from South Africa, Pacific Island boys that are from Tonga, Samoa – the Japanese brothers, Aussie brothers,” he said.

“I’m playing against a different variety of players, different styles, which has been refreshing and awesome. Where in New Zealand, you’re just playing against the New Zealand teams and Aussie teams.”

(Reporting by Michael Church; Editing by William Mallard)