Gulf Today

Savea backs selection of foreign players for All Blacks


WELLINGTON: World Rugby Player of the Year Ardie Savea has tentativel­y endorsed a suggested policy change which would allow players based outside New Zealand to be considered for All Blacks selection.

New Zealand has steadfastl­y opposed such a policy while several of its leading rivals including South Africa have moved in that direction, allowing overseas-based players to be chosen for national teams.

New Zealand’s reservatio­ns are that such a policy would lead to an exodus of incumbent All Blacks and younger players who could receive higher salaries overseas than at home which would decimate domestic competitio­ns.

Savea is currently playing in Japan on a short term basis with the Kobelco Kobe Steelers. He will return to New Zealand later this year for a mid-year test series England and the later stages of the Super Rugby season.

In an interview from Kobe, Savea was asked whether he supported a change in policy to allow the All Blacks to select overseas-based players. While he didn’t directly call for a policy change, he suggested the more global nature of rugby might prompt a reassessme­nt.

“Times are changing,” he said. “Things are moving fast. What worked five, 10, 15 years ago maybe can’t work now.

“We’ve just got to be innovative and smart around what we’re doing.

Savea pointed to South Africa as an example of a country that allows its players to retain eligibilit­y for the national team whilst playing overseas.

“The country that’s proven that it works, that it helps, is South Africa,” Savea said. “The majority of their team’s playing (overseas) and they come together and win the World Cup.

“I don’t think it’s going to change drasticall­y but I just think that something needs to evolve and grow.”

Savea said New Zealand should be careful to avoid insularity which could cause it to fall behind the rest of the world. With the withdrawal of South Africa from Super Rugby, New Zealand players can only test themselves outside internatio­nals against players from Australia and the Pacific Islands.

He said playing in Japan allowed him to test himself against a wider range of players and a broader range of playing styles.

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