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Will Skelton has his say on Kerr-Barlow's Wallabies ambition

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Lock Will Skelton has given his view on the ambition of his La Rochelle club colleague Tawera Kerr-Barlow, the 2015 All Blacks World Cup winner, to play for the Wallabies. It was last February in an extensive RugbyPass interview when the scrum-half originally floated the idea of being able to swap countries and play for Australia as he was Australian-born and had gone to New Zealand as a teenager to attend school.

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Kerr-Barlow then repeated this desire to change his allegiance to the Wallabies in a Top 14 pre-season interview published on rugbyrama.fr, explaining: “Unlike New Zealand, Australia have a rule allowing players who are overseas to still be eligible for selection. I am available to play for the Wallabies. I was born there. I have a lot of ties in this country and if the staff calls me I will go without hesitation.”

Wallabies boss Dave Rennie soon clarified the situation. “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 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.

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“We got three excellent nines here and Ryan Lonergan behind that, but as we have seen this year things can change quickly so I will certainly keep in contact with Tawera. It’s a hell of a resource in behind what we have already got.”

Now Skelton has shared his thoughts on the potential of having his La Rochelle teammate join him in the Wallabies dressing room at some time in the future if the call comes from Rennie. “It would be amazing,” he told the latest edition of Midi Olympique, the French rugby newspaper. “He is a world-class player and we are a bit alike in our backgrounds.

“He left New Zealand for Europe which made him ineligible for the Blacks, like me with Saracens. Today who knows, there may be injuries and Tawera may join us. Especially since I am convinced that he would fit in perfectly with the group.”

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While the change in World Rugby eligibility laws is the reason why Kerr-Barlow can potentially make change countries, it was the loosening of the Rugby Australia Giteau Law that enabled Skelton to end his five-year spell in the international rugby wilderness last November after Rennie was permitted to call up some overseas-based players.

Skelton loved his return to the Test fold. “It was so refreshing to rub shoulders with new staff, different players… Playing for your country is the emotional peak for a rugby player. That’s what I’m looking for. The team has been improving significantly for several years. The youngsters are very talented and they were very close to winning the Rugby Championship.

“I hope we will manage to create a perfect mix to be ready in 2023. For the moment, I do not deserve to be selected! I’m not playing well enough to return to the Wallabies group but by 2023, I hope to find my form and be able to play in the World Cup.”

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