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Australia rule out sabbaticals on player contracts

Australian Rugby Union Chief Bill Pulver

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Article Published: Friday 20 June 2014|

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The Australian Rugby Union have ruled out introducing player sabbaticals which will prevent stars like Israel Folau from taking short term deals to play overseas.

Folau has joined the call from former Australian captains John Eales, George Gregan and Stirling Mortlock by calling for players to be allowed to take up short deals with European clubs without jeopardising their eligibility for the Wallabies.

The New Zealand Rugby Union have allowed their top players to take six month breaks mid contract allowing them to either rest or play for abroad but Australian Rugby Union Chief Bill Pulver has ruled this out for Australian contracts.

Twenty-four-year-old Folau is understood to be a popular target for Rugby Union and Rugby League teams with French Top 14 and Heineken Cup champions Toulon understood to be interested in his signature.

Currently the Australian Rugby Union's eligibility rules state that players have to play a full season of domestic Australian Rugby before being eligible to play for the Wallabies.

"There is a lot of discussion around this but I have to be clear: I have zero appetite to change it," Pulver told AFP.

Pulver said that no player was bigger than the game itself and that even the prospect of losing Folau to a European Club or to another code will not change his mind.

"It's not a concern," he said.

"Look, at the end of the day, we only want people to play rugby in Australia who want to play rugby in Australia.

"We're not about trying to talk anyone into staying if they don't want to stay. So every individual player will have to form their own view.

"When it comes to that policy, I really do not see it changing and I think the logic's pretty compelling."

Pulver said that if the Wallabies started selecting players from overseas clubs it could lead to more players leaving domestic Australian rugby which would weaken the country's competitions.

Folau said this week that he is happy to stay in Rugby Union for now but that he will look at "all options" after the 2015 World Cup.

Pulver said that he was optimistic that the code hopping fullback would commit to Australian rugby on a long term basis.

"He's a phenomenal talent. He could well be on a path to being the best rugby player in the world. He could be on a path to being the most significant rugby player in Australian history," he said.

"He's an incredible talent. Fans gravitate towards the guy and he lights up whatever field he runs on to.

"So is he a great asset to Australian rugby? Clearly. Would we love to keep him long-term? Clearly. From what I understand of Israel Folau's position, I think he's loving our game.

"I think there's a lot of reasons why he should stay."

 
 
 
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