Scott Robertson clarifies his views on All Blacks eligibility laws after ‘opening the floodgates’ concerns

Colin Newboult
Scott Robertson being announced as All Blacks head coach in 2023.

All Blacks head coach Scott Robertson looks on.

All Blacks head coach Scott Robertson has clarified his views on New Zealand Rugby’s eligibility laws and would like them to work on a ‘case by case’ basis.

The 49-year-old took over from Ian Foster following the Rugby World Cup and immediately caused a stir with his comments on the governing body’s overseas policy.

Robertson stated that he wanted NZR to keep an “open mind” on potentially selecting players who are not currently in New Zealand.

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“What I’ve talked and presented to the board, the CEOs of Super Rugby, the Pus [provincial unions], of Heartland… is around keeping an open mind in that space,” Robertson said in January.

“I’ve not asked, ‘Can I please have someone come and play for us?’ but keep an open mind where the game is at the moment.

“It’s moving quite quickly, as we know. There’s a lot [happening] on and off the field, with players and decision and contracting, so I want to be a step ahead of it.

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

New Zealand Rugby have been staunch in their defence of the current policy and have insisted that no alterations will be made, certainly in the short-term.

They have concerns that it will lead to a mass exodus of players to overseas clubs, but Robertson hopes that it can be worked so that doesn’t happen.

A new World Cup cycle always brings about significant change for the All Blacks on the player front, and this season is no different.

They will need a new pair of half-backs after Richie Mo’unga and Aaron Smith signed deals in Japan, as well as a fresh lock partnership with Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock similarly going abroad.

Other individuals have also decided to ply their trade elsewhere, including Shannon Frizell, who became a key part of their impressive form in 2023, which culminated in a World Cup final appearance.

It would hugely benefit the head coach, especially in this transitional period, for him to be allowed access to some of those players, and Robertson delved into the matter on The Breakdown.


“I mentioned earlier on about keeping an open mind about the eligibility criteria. Everyone thinks you’re going to open the floodgates, well it’s not, it’s looking at people that are eligible and they meet the criteria,” he said.

“We’ve got to evolve. Guys that have been to two or three World Cups, they’re starting to look to go overseas. What does it look like? How long could they go for? I was just going to be open to those questions.

“It goes quite quickly. I deal with agents all the time. I’m dealing with players and one of my main jobs is making sure I understand what they need.

“If I’m going to say it publicly, I’ve got to talk to the players about it too and understand where the game is going.

“The key part of it is the eligibility and the criteria; it’s a case-by-case basis, it’s not the floodgates.”

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