Wallabies coach Dave Rennie will be able to select up to two overseas-based players this season even if they do not qualify under the “Giteau law” by having played more than 60 tests, Rugby Australia said on Thursday.
Australians contracted to foreign clubs were banned from playing for their country until Rennie’s predecessor Michael Cheika negotiated a policy change for experienced players like Matt Giteau in 2015.
The further loosening of the policy reflects the unprecedented challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is likely to result in the Wallabies being locked down in camp for a lengthy period for the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup.
“We are being quite clear that this addition is for this year only but that we will continue to review the entire policy from time to time, as required,” said RA’s interim chief executive Rob Clarke said in a news release.
“Dave will soon assemble his squad and they’re likely to remain in a ‘bubble’ for 10 weeks with no opportunity to call in replacements for injury due to the quarantined environment.”
The players the selectors want to include in the squad under the new rule will have to be approved by the RA board after a wide consultation.
“It is crucial that we recognise those players who are currently making a daily contribution to rugby in Australia, and that will be reflected in the squad we name for this year’s test season,” Rennie said.
“We now have the chance to select one or two players based overseas who don’t meet the current criteria and they’ll not only add some experience to our group but be able to guide our young players to help their development.”
The Rugby Championship, which also involves New Zealand, world champions South Africa and Argentina, is scheduled to take place in November and December. Squad sizes have been increased to 46 players for this season.
It is hoped to play the tournament entirely in New Zealand, although Rugby Australia is still keen to host two Bledisloe Cup tests against the All Blacks on home soil.