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Aaron Smith believes that All Blacks eligibility will change after the last two World Cups

By Ben Smith
Aaron Smith New Zealand performs the Haka before the Rugby World Cup France 2023 semi-final match between Argentina and New Zealand at Stade de France on October 20, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

Former All Blacks halfback and Test centurion Aaron Smith believes that the All Blacks eligibility rules will change in the next few years after two unsuccessful Rugby World Cup campaigns.

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The 35-year-old retired from international rugby at the conclusion of last year’s Rugby World Cup where New Zealand finished runners up after falling short by one point 12-11 in the final.

Smith believes that their is enough evidence from the 2019 and 2023 campaigns that justifies picking All Blacks from overseas, with a caveat.

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He wants to see a threshold similar to the ‘Giteau law’ used by Rugby Australia to pick Wallabies, which originally set the bar at 60 Tests.

“The last two World Cups show that maybe it isn’t the way,” Smith told Newstalk ZB’s Rugby Direct podcast.

“For our country, our market of Super Rugby and harnessing our talent, playing in New Zealand helps the game.

“When I was playing you had to be in New Zealand to be picked for the All Blacks.

“My only view would be there has to be a criteria for something, like if you’ve played eight years or 60 Tests. There needs to be a criteria so not all our young talent takes off.

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“Players could be eligible to go abroad and still give back to the country. That’s where I think it would be fair.”

“By no means do I want all our 21-year-old, 10-Test All Blacks taking off to Japan and not helping that next group come through,” he said.

The all-time great All Black pointed to the success of the Springboks at the last two Rugby World Cups who have picked a high number of their players from overseas.

In 2018 under pressure from the falling rand and amid a slump in the form of the national side, the change was made by SARU.

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Head coach Rassie Erasmus immediately began selecting players from Japan and Europe, holding alignment camps to get the squad on the same page.

Smith thought that there was “some gravy in that” decision but clarified he only saw a handful of players ever qualifying under new criteria.

“There has to be a group above a certain amount of Tests and time in the team that gives you the opportunity to earn more money and still play for the All Blacks like South Africa have done – they’re two-time champs in a row. There has to be some gravy in that.

“I think by this next World Cup there will be changes to that criteria.

“We’ve got enough smart people at the NZRU to come up with a criteria that not all our top talent leaves.

“You’re talking about four or five players who are deserving of that top end money and will still be wearing the black jersey. I’d say in the next few years there will be something that will move.”

 

“The microscope only really comes on in those World Cup years. The Bledisloe (Cup) is key every year and building our teams but you look at other nations – they build and peak at World Cups,” he added.

“If South Africa hasn’t shown that, then everyone is blind. They don’t do it pretty but they’ve done it. And they’ve done it twice now.

“You’ve got to applaud them on that. Talking to Pieter-Steph du Toit, my team-mate in Japan, hearing certain things about how Rassie [Erasmus] does things… It’s all calculated.

Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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