Matt Giteau weighs in on controversial All Blacks policy blocking ‘special talent’ Richie Mo’unga

Dylan Coetzee
Split with Richie Mo'unga and Matt Giteau.

Split with Richie Mo'unga and Matt Giteau.

Wallabies legend Matt Giteau shared his views on New Zealand Rugby’s selection policy that prevents foreign-based players from representing the All Blacks.

The selection policy has long been debated with new head coach Scott Robertson urging the governing body to have an open mind, with the tactician’s eyes on the likes of Richie Mo’unga and Shannon Frizell who are both ineligible as they are based in Japan.

There have been many views for and against the policy with Japan-based All Black legend Aaron Smith amongst those in favour of opening it up.

However, the major concern is that New Zealand sides are unable to compete with salaries offered abroad which is why they use the lure of the All Blacks jersey to retain their talent.

South Africa is a case study of how opening up selection to overseas-based players can work, with Rassie Erasmus changing the policy before the 2019 Rugby World Cup. This resulted in back-to-back world titles although it must be noted that South Africa has probably the biggest player pool of any country.

Australia also has restrictions on overseas-based players, but they have an exception made for Giteau himself called ‘Giteau Law’ where three players with 30 Test caps or more based outside of the country can be selected.

Enough talent

However, the former Wallaby feels New Zealand has enough talent to keep their doors shut to overseas players.

“The difference from my perspective [is] New Zealand rugby have so many great players,” he told Newstalk ZB’s D’Arcy Waldegrave.

“Once you see the legends of the game move on, the next year you’ve got a new kid ready to step in and dominate the international scene.

“So you’ve got so many great players. It’s their only real bargaining power, to play for the All Blacks, you need to stay in New Zealand.

“Obviously, there are so many players that could play for the All Blacks. But New Zealand rugby just have so much depth in their squads.

“From an actual depth of squad point of view, I don’t think New Zealand Rugby need it.”

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“Special” players

Mo’unga’s case is very interesting after he tore up the Japan Rugby League One in his first season. However, Giteau insists it is not as easy as it sounds and the situation very much depends on the player.

“You only need to look at the rugby season he had over there in Japan,” he added. “He’s a great player, he’s a very talented player.

“You’ve also got to ask the player, does he want to come back and play for the All Blacks again?

“Whether he’s happy overseas, or looking in a different direction in his life, maybe playing for the All Blacks isn’t the be-all and end-all for him anymore.

“There’s no doubt he’s a special talent. But it’s obviously up to the player. You only want players who want to play for your country to be playing for your country.”

Eye opener

The 41-year-old, who is well travelled having played in Japan, France and now the USA, insists going abroad can be very positive for a player’s life.

“The experiences you get, you have to ask Ardie Savea [after] his little stint in Japan,” he explained.

“Just getting away from the fishbowl of rugby in Australia and New Zealand and experiencing life experiences, and something culturally totally different.

“There’s a lot to be said there for freshening the players up. I see allowing the players to go away, but obviously they can’t play for the All Blacks when they’re away is probably the way to do it.”

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