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Why changing All Blacks eligibility would be so detrimental to New Zealand rugby

By Ned Lester
(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

New Zealand Rugby have remained resolute in their strict stance on All Blacks eligibility, limiting selection for the national rugby team to players competing in domestic competitions. That being said, the question is being asked and players are reportedly receiving a more “open-minded” tone from NZR in contract negotiations.


The All Blacks’ Rugby Championship rivals have each adopted more inclusive eligibility rules that see each of the tier-one sides take the field with foreign-based players, allowing their biggest talents to take up high-paying contracts overseas without compromising international competitiveness.

While those fellow southern hemisphere nations have differing specifics, a threshold of 30 caps is currently the magic number for players to have completed before they can take advantage of the rule.

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Former Crusaders halfback Bryn Hall is currently playing for Shizuoka Blue Revs in Japan’s Top League, he says international experience would be crucial if New Zealand Rugby were to adopt less strict eligibility laws.

“If you’re an experienced person and have a very professional understanding of what it looks like for you week-to-week,” Hall explained on The Aotearoa Rugby Pod. “You could probably get away with it.

“The pace over here is very quick, but the physicality and I guess level or standard is a little bit lower than your Super Rugby.

“It does take players a bit of time to acclimatise back into that high tempo, high physicality and be able to play at that level.”



Were experience at the top level not required for All Blacks eligibility, it could be hugely detrimental to the “whole rugby ecosystem” in New Zealand, according to Hall’s fellow podcast panellist James Parsons.

Parsons asked the question of whether Hall would have hung around in Super Rugby for as long as he did if there was the potential to still be selected for the All Blacks while playing overseas – on a bigger contract. Hall answered without hesitation, “definitely not.”

Elaborating on why that is so dangerous for the local game, Parsons said: “That’s a six-time-title winning No 9, that you want teaching the next level, going back to Harbour.

“If you look at Lewis Gjaltema, who was at Harbour under Bryn for a number of years, didn’t play hardly any footy, he’s carving up in the premiership. Without that apprenticeship with Bryn; they used to get there 40-odd minutes before everyone and Bryn would take him through all his drills and he just got better and better and better. If Bryn’s not there, he doesn’t get that opportunity and he’s not doing what he’s doing now. That is a powerful part of why we’re so strong.


“Obviously we want to keep the best players, I want to keep them as well. But, the flow-on effect can impact our whole rugby ecosystem, which would need a rethink.”

“We can’t fall behind, if you look at everyone that’s had a sabbatical, it’s taken a few months to get up to speed. I’m not saying there is a future with it not happening, but with one lever you pull to keep a small amount of players, how many then start to go offshore and our NPC struggles, our Super Rugby struggles.”

“And the sponsors don’t necessarily get the pay (off).” Podcast host Ross Karl added.


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