The latest update from Tawera Kerr-Barlow on his Wallabies dream
Former All Blacks scrum-half Tawera Kerr-Barlow has provided the latest update on his aspirations of representing the Wallabies at Test level. The 2015 Rugby World Cup winner with New Zealand generated headlines last year when praising the changes that World Rugby had made to the eligibility rules and suggested that he would love to play for Australia, the country of his birth and where he grew up until his early teens.
Those comments were made in a RugbyPass interview in February 2022 and after he spoke further about the topic in a French media interview last August, the idea of the former All Blacks scrum-half playing for the Wallabies was put to then-coach Dave Rennie.
“I had a conversation with him when he rang up just to say that if we got under any pressure, if there are injuries… he is born in Australia, a former All Black, but the change of rules makes him eligible,” explained Rennie at the time. “He is a great man, a hell of a player and you have got a guy who is a former All Black putting his hand up to play for Wallabies, that is a good sign.”
Rennie added that scrum-half was “probably our strongest position” with Nic White, Tate McDermott and Jake Gordon all part of that week’s squad versus the Springboks. However, the coach was soon to lose his job, getting replaced by Eddie Jones in January who named just two scrum-halves for a three-day Gold Coast camp in April.
That first gathering of the Wallabies under Jones invited seven overseas players to join the camp via Zoom but while the French-based Will Skelton was accommodated, his La Rochelle teammate Kerr-Barlow wasn’t.
"He absolutely destroyed me the second time. I don’t think he even made much of an effort" @staderochelais forward @Ultan_Dillane talks to @heagneyl ??? abt leaving Irish rugby, changing position, his 'pillow' story and more… https://t.co/3pxS2q547m
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 23, 2023
What then is the current status of his ambition to play for Australia? “I think it kind of got blown out of proportion,” Kerr-Barlow told RugbyPass on a call ahead of next weekend’s Heineken Champions Cup final against Leinster in Dublin.
“I was happy to be available, it’s where I grew up for a long period of time and where I was born. That is all I meant. Probably not going to happen, I don’t think. You never know but that is the impression I get. So, nothing for the moment there.”
But are you still available; the boots are still ready? “Yeah, yeah, so to speak. If they give me a call, I definitely won’t hang up.”
The 32-year-old played for New Zealand on 27 occasions, coming off the bench in the 2015 World Cup final versus Australia, and it was 15 months ago when he first spoke about liking how international rugby had opened up its eligibility rules to allow players capped by one country to play for another.
“It is a really positive thing,” he said at the time. “You get players who play a handful of Tests for a country and that is their eligibility shot and they have still got a lot to offer world rugby. We all want world rugby to be strong, we want it to be a spectacle and some of the best players in the world, they move overseas and they grow and they improve.
“You have got the likes of Charles Piutau in England, Steven Luatua is there, you have got Victor Vito in France, you have got all these guys who could add so much to their country. Even myself, I’d love to chuck on the Australian jersey as I spent the first part of life in Australia, my family is still there and I’m very grateful for what they have done for my family. My mum played for Australia.
“It [opening up eligibility] is a positive thing. You will get people saying, ‘Oh, you know, you’re not loyal’ or ‘How can you play for one country and play for another?’ But if you are born in a country or your parents are born there and you feel a certain way about the country and you have got roots already established, then why not?
“I’m a pretty open individual in terms of those sorts of things and I just want rugby to be the big thing I know it can be because if you love rugby, you want it to improve.”
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