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Kieran Read warns NZR against All Blacks eligibility rule change

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

Former All Blacks captain Kieran Read has questioned whether the All Blacks “could survive” if New Zealand Rugby decided to change international eligibility rules amidst widespread calls for change.

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New Zealanders are currently not eligible to don the coveted black jersey of the national team if they’re contracted overseas. But captain Sam Cane has become the latest big name to urge New Zealand Rugby to reconsider its stance on the topic.

Cane has just made the move over to Tokyo Sungoliath in Japan on a sabbatical, and World Rugby Player of the Year Ardie Savea has also moved to the Land of the Rising Sun on a short-term deal.

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But others have gone for good. 29-year-old playmaker Richie Mo’unga has seemingly been lost to New Zealand Rugby for the foreseeable future after signing a lucrative multi-year deal in Japan.

Shannon Frizell, Leicester Fainga’anuku, Aaron Smith and Brodie Retallick are another four All Blacks who are no longer eligible to compete at the highest level for New Zealand.

While the All Blacks are preparing to usher in a new dawn without some genuine greats, former skipper Kieran Read has urged NZR not to change anything.

“From my point of view, I don’t think New Zealand Rugby, the All Blacks or anyone could survive if we end up going down that route, just yet,” he told AM.

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“We need our guys playing in New Zealand. We need a strong competition that’s getting fans along to games, getting them engaged, keeping them engaged here in New Zealand.

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“We can’t be doing that if we’re off playing around the world.”

One month on from the Rugby World Cup final at Stade de France, captain Sam Cane arrived at his new Japanese club along with Springboks wing Cheslin Kolbe.

As Cane explained in front of a sea of reporters, the world champions have found success by juggling club commitments overseas and representative duty with the national team.

But as Kieran Read warned, just because it works for South Africa doesn’t mean that it’ll work for New Zealand.

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“The seasons don’t quite align,” Read added. “We’ve seen in South Africa, although it can work for them in some ways, they end up playing literally all year round because there’s no break between the international and club season.

“I don’t see it happening right now, I don’t think it needs to.

“Certainly, the opportunities to have sabbaticals and stuff is going to keep the guys in New Zealand a bit longer, I hope.”

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