Seeing New Zealand players like Jason Woodward, Tamati Ellison and Alby Matthewson exceling for their Australian based Super Rugby franchises raises the question of if overseas based players should be eligible for the All Blacks? I still have to answer this with an emphatic no!
The NZRU has it correct by only allowing New Zealand based players to don the All Blacks jersey and represent their country. They could open the gates to overseas based Super Rugby players, but then that would be the catalyst for opening the borders to European and Japanese based players and this would be the end of the All Blacks and New Zealand’s Super Rugby dominance and the ITM Cup, in my opinion.
All New Zealand has is the lifestyle to offer players as the big money is overseas in the bigger markets of Asia and Europe. This would pretty much see New Zealand drained of talent knowing that they could still qualify for the All Blacks. If you think this is unreasonable, you only have to look at what has happened to other countries.
Just look at countries like Samoa, Fiji, Tonga and Argentina. Their players are scattered all over the world and their clubs pay the bills and tend to get club over country priorities. It is very similar to what New Zealand faces in the round ball football code trying get players back for fixtures. Even when players are returned, it often causes disruptions with limited training time together.
South Africa do allow overseas based players to represent them and this has seen messy situations develop. In recent seasons this has caused disruptions with one situation arising in recent seasons where five French based players flying from their club team in France to Argentina for a Rugby Championship fixture and then had to return to France the following week. It is hardly ideal. Imagine how much stronger their Super Rugby teams would be too!
England and Australia have similar policies to New Zealand. There has been something interesting happen with England. Their squad to tour New Zealand in June has been depleted through injuries and a clash with the Aviva Premiership final and the drums have been beating for Toulon based Steffon and Delon Armitage. Toulon do play in the Heineken Cup against England teams, much like New Zealand’s Super Rugby opponents in Australia and South Africa. But to England’s credit, despite being tempted to strengthen their squad to New Zealand, they have looked at the long term future of the game in England and looked at England based players.
Do you think the All Blacks should select overseas based players?