Inside Sport - - WINNER & LOSERS -

It’s a good mo­ment, and it hasn’t been this good for awhile, for Aus­tralian rugby. It is why this phe­nom­e­non of player sab­bat­i­cals is so trou­bling. We’ve seen play­ers take late-ca­reer over­seas turns to cash in or en­joy a broad­en­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, but this lat­est case of Nick Cum­mins hurts on sev­eral lev­els – an in-prime player who also hap­pens to be one of the great footy char­ac­ters to emerge in many a moon. The Aus­tralian Rugby Union has de­cided to draw the sandy line on the is­sue, us­ing its ul­ti­mate lever­age – the chance to wear Wallaby gold. While the ARU prob­a­bly doesn’t have many de­sir­able op­tions, this kind of hard line seems des­tined to end up in some kind of bad out­come. In Aus­tralia’s tight mar­ket for sport­ing tal­ent, any­thing that will fur­ther un­der­mine rugby’s ca­pa­bil­ity to have its best and most com­pelling play­ers on the field will prove last­ingly prob­lem­atic. And it also raises le­git ques­tions, with the new third-tier comp 

and the ris­ing prospects for sev­ens in the Olympics and be­yond, about the sheer amount of rugby that the top play­ers are be­ing asked to play.

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