Sir John Kirwan’s ‘simple solution’ to keep players in New Zealand

David Skippers
John Kirwan former All Blacks wing 2015 - Alamy.jpg

Former All Blacks wing Sir John Kirwan.

All Blacks legend Sir John Kirwan has given his support to New Zealand Rugby’s (NZR) policy of not picking overseas based players for the All Blacks and believes he has a solution to work around the issue.

NZR have operated on a strict domestic-only policy surrounding team selection, requiring players to either play Super Rugby or have a deal to return home in the following year.

Exodus of players after Rugby World Cup

Several All Blacks have left New Zealand to further their careers at overseas-based clubs after the Rugby World Cup. That is usually the case after a World Cup cycle and after the global showpiece in France most of them, including the likes of Brodie Retallick, Aaron Smith, Richie Mo’unga and Shannon Frizell signed lucrative contracts with clubs in Japan.

That means all the aforementioned players are ineligible to represent New Zealand but All Blacks head coach Scott Robertson has made no secret that he would like to select players who are plying their trade abroad and has said he wants there to be an “open mind” around the selection of overseas-based players.

But ex-All Blacks wing Kirwan believes doing that would see numerous players leaving New Zealand and feels introducing teams from other regions into a competition like Super Rugby could help make the game more enticing for players.

“For me it’s just why we have this rule. The biggest fear is that all our players are going to go overseas, it’s going to ruin the brand that we have here and eventually the All Blacks,” he said on The Breakdown.

“I think there’s a simple solution. South Africa have gone (from Super Rugby) but we need to bring people back, so we’ve got to bring the Japanese into our competition.

“We’ve got to bring a franchise in from the west coast of America, maybe put one in Hawaii or Singapore, and then if we’re playing against each other, you know if Beauden Barrett or Richie Mo’unga is playing well enough.

“We don’t want anyone to go but we can make a little back garden and if you play in that back garden, and they’re playing good enough within the competition, they get picked for the All Blacks.”

Speaking on the same programme, Robertson said he doesn’t believe many players would leave New Zealand if the NZR tinkers with its policy of not picking overseas based players.

Won’t open the floodgates

“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.”

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