‘It’s not something you change immediately’ – All Blacks great Dan Carter weighs in on NZR eligibility laws debate

David Skippers
Dan Carter and the All Blacks.jpg

New Zealand's players perform the haka at the 2023 Rugby World Cup and ex-All Blacks fly-half Dan Carter.

Legendary All Blacks fly-half Dan Carter has given his support to New Zealand Rugby’s (NZR) longstanding eligibility laws and said it should not be changed, regardless of the circumstances.

New Zealand have operated on a strict domestic-only policy surrounding team selection at Test level, with players required to play at Super Rugby level or have a contract to return home in the following year if they want to represent the All Blacks.

Incoming All Blacks head coach Scott Robertson caused a stir earlier this year when he asked New Zealand rugby bosses to keep an “open mind” regarding the selection of overseas-based players.

Stars abroad

That means players like star fly-half Richie Mo’unga and highly rated back-row Shannon Frizell, who joined Japanese clubs after last year’s Rugby World Cup in France, are ineligible to play for the All Blacks.

Mo’unga and Robertson having a long-standing relationship after winning Super Rugby titles together at the Crusaders and although the coach did not identify the 56-Test fly-half as the key player he wanted, he stressed that it is important for the dialogue to begin.

“I just want to keep an open mind so I can select the best players available to the All Blacks,” said Robertson in January.

But Carter feels the NZR should remain firm in its stance and said making exceptions for certain players due to their form – even a star like Mo’unga, who he described as the world’s best player in his position – would set a dangerous precedent.

“I don’t think it’s just something you change immediately when, when you feel like there’s a player that you’d love to have,” the 42-year-old told Newshub on Tuesday.

“My opinion, [Mo’unga] is probably the best No. 10 in the world. As sad as it was to see him leave, he left for his reasons and to spend more time with his family.

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“I’m sure he’s enjoying his time in Japan and I’m sure here’s a part of Razor that wouldn’t mind having him back as well.”

Carter believes changing the laws could see numerous players leaving New Zealand to join overseas-based clubs and that might weaken the quality of rugby at Super Rugby and NPC levels.

“The priority is making sure that New Zealand rugby is as strong as it possibly can be and if those eligibility rules change then who knows, we might see more players departing,” he added.

Carter, who made 112 Test appearances for the All Blacks, said there is not a shortage of alternative options to take over the crucial fly-half position for New Zealand in the international arena.

Fly-half options

Amongst Carter’s leading contenders for the All Blacks’ number 10 jersey are Damian McKenzie, who has been excellent for the Chiefs at Super Rugby Pacific level, and Beauden Barrett, who is currently playing in Japan but set to return to New Zealand to be available for selection for the upcoming Test series against England in July.

“You’ve obviously got Beaudy coming back,” he said. “A proven playmaker and everyone knows what he’s capable of, so it’s great to have him recommitted for a long period.

“And it’s hard to go past Damian McKenzie and the impact that he has every time he plays for the Chiefs. It’s awesome to see him in fine form.

“It’s definitely a battle for those two boys.”

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