Planet Rugby

Pulver denies Wallaby sabbaticals

19th June 2014 06:33

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Bill Pulver Australian Rugby Union ARU chief executive

Standing firm: Bill Pulver

ARU chief Bill Pulver says he is in no mood to grant top Wallabies sabbaticals despite calls from a number of Test legends.

Speculation over Israel Folau's future is rife, and last week Ewen McKenzie's game-breaker added his voice to those of Stirling Mortlock, George Gregan, and John Eales in calling for the ARU to permit extended periods away from the sport.

The NZRU already allows some of its biggest stars to take a break, with Richie McCaw and Conrad Smith having undergone six-month spells out of rugby in the past year, and both having credited the process with injecting some fresh impetus into their respective careers.

Dan Carter is the latest All Black to spend time away from the game, having returned to low-level domestic rugby last weekend.

But Pulver is adamant he has no desire to alter the ARU's current policy that demands players complete a full season of domestic Australian rugby in order to be selected for international duty.

He can only hope that his stance does not force any of the nation's big-name players out of their home country.

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

"It's not a concern.

"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.

"Why would you choose Wallabies from overseas markets, which would most likely then allow a serious exit of playing talent from this country and dilute the calibre of our competition?

"That's not what we want to do with the game in Australia."

So what of the flying Folau, so integral to Wallaby success on the field?

"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," acknowledged Pulver.

"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.

"He's a really good guy whose values are completely aligned with Australian rugby - and world rugby - so I think there's a lot of reasons why he should stay.

"Ultimately, that will come down to a negotiation process that I really can't predict."

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