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Australian Rugby Agents warned over conduct


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Australian Rugby agents have been warned that they could be stripped of the licenced to work in Australia and face legal action if they are found to have helped one of their players do a Sonny Bill Williams and run off to France.

RUPA (Rugby Union Players Association) held a meeting on Monday attended by 35 player managers who were informed of the consequences for a client breaking a rugby contract to chase big cash in French or British competitions.

There were told that not only would agents be personally liable to legal action over a Williams-style walkout, they would also face losing the RUPA accreditation needed to represent Super 14 and Wallabies talent in Australia.

“If an agent who was accredited by us encouraged and promoted a player to breach his contract and go overseas in similar circumstances to Sonny Bill, we’d probably go close to disbarring him and revoking his licence,” RUPA boss Tony Dempsey told the Daily Telegraph.

“It would be in breach of our code of conduct, which requires all players to adhere to their side of the contract.

“We also had a University of NSW contract law expert, Deborah Healey, in who said facilitating a player breaching their contract that they, too, could be liable.”

The gathering was held as reports were released detailing an offer where Wallaby wing Lote Tuqiri had been approached by French club Bayonne.

Tuqiri turned down the offer as he is under contract with the ARU and NSW until 2011 saying that he would consider another offer in the future.

Had Tuqiri accepted the offer and moved to France the IRB has the power to step in and stop the move as Tuqiri would broken a contract with one member nation to play in another.

With Sonny Bill Williams this is not the case as he did not have a prior rugby union contract and was with a rugby league team.

“The only way it could happen is if a private club owner over there thumbed his nose at the IRB and the FFR,” Dempsey said.

There is confusion about whether privately owned clubs such as Toulon and Bayonne fall under the jurisdiction of the FRR, but Dempsey believes the French national body would ultimately wield influence “through political persuasion”.

The RUPA is in the process of negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement, however, that could end up with more players taking up overseas offers.

Many Australian players are said to be keen for the standard playing contract to change from starting and ending on December 31 to running from September.

As the Northern Hemisphere competitions start in September Australian players could be heavily targeted under such a contract.

“It would align us with the northern hemisphere wouldn’t it?” Dempsey admitted.

“So there would be some resistance to that I’d suspect.”

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