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Giteau's Law facing the chop

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Public sentiment no longer behind Giteau's Law?

There are changes afoot in Australian rugby with new coach Dave Rennie arriving in 2020.

With chairman of Rugby Australia Cameron Clyne also stepping down, there is a mass shake-up to the governing body, and with it some of their laws, namely the Giteau Law, which is under review.

This law says that an overseas player can be picked for Australia providing they have over 60 caps, meaning players have spent long enough and contributed enough to their Super Rugby franchises. It was introduced in 2015 in order to shoehorn Toulon-based Matt Giteau into the Wallabies team for the Rugby World Cup.

The issue reared its head before this RWC as players like Saracens’ Will Skelton and Leinster’s Scott Fardy were showing form in the northern hemisphere worthy of being selected for the RWC in Japan, but did not have the required caps.

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Rugby Australia did not make any changes to the law, but an exodus of players this year, spearheaded by the 33-cap Samu Kerevi, may mean changes need to be made in order to make Rennie’s job easier.

This issue is not black and white, and while the majority of Australians seem to be in favour of scrapping the Giteau Law, this is a debate that has been going on for a while now and does have people on both sides of the fence.

The main reason why people are in favour of scrapping the law is that players should be allowed to maximise their earning potential by moving abroad. In short careers, some think that it is unfair to stay within Australia, where the wages do not compete with those in Japan or France.

Moreover, there is an argument that players improve by playing elsewhere and they would therefore be able to enrich the national team. That has undeniably been the case with Skelton.

What seems to be clear to many Australians is that the law is no longer serving as a deterrent, as a number of players in their prime (and with under 60 caps) are willing to forgo representing their country.

South Africa faced this same problem, and decided to allow all foreign-based players to play, regardless of caps. In terms of their national performance, their results speak for themselves, but the standard and interest in their Super Rugby teams has certainly dropped.

This relates to the question being asked of Rugby Australia, which is whether they prioritise their Super Rugby franchises or the national team. If the focus is the growth of the national team, then allowing the likes of Kerevi and Skelton to play will be beneficial, but this could have catastrophic consequences to the Super Rugby teams, as players will seek more lucrative contracts abroad.

It is hard to determine whether weaker Super Rugby teams will stultify the development of younger players, or actually give them an opportunity to play, but domestic rugby in Australia would be put in an awkward position.

Some are suggesting that selection for Australia should be based on Super Rugby caps rather than national caps, which would help in alleviating a player drain. This would ensure players have contributed to Super Rugby for a while before they seek out new contracts.

This is a tough decision for Rugby Australia, and one that they will not rush to. But after their showing at the RWC this year, crashing out to England in the quarter-final, many people in Australia feel that a change is necessary.

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Public sentiment no longer behind Giteau's Law?