Rugby

ARU rules out sabbaticals

2014-06-19 13:04
Israel Folau (Getty)

Sydney - Australian Rugby Union chief Bill Pulver on Thursday ruled out introducing player sabbaticals, preventing stars such as Israel Folau taking up lucrative short-term overseas deals.

Folau this week joined Test greats including ex-captains John Eales, George Gregan and Stirling Mortlock in calling for playing stints overseas to be allowed without losing eligibility to represent the Wallabies.

Folau, 24, is hot property across the two rugby codes and comes off contract next year, with French champions Toulon reportedly expressing an interest in the dual rugby international back.

ARU rules stipulate that players must complete a full season of domestic rugby in Australia to be eligible for national team selection.

"There is a lot of discussion around this but I have to be clear: I have zero appetite to change it," Pulver told reporters.

He said no player was bigger than the game and not even the prospect of losing the in-demand Folau would alter his hardline stance.

"It's not a concern," he said. "Look, at the end of the day, we only want people to play rugby in Australia who want to play rugby in Australia.

"We're not about trying to talk anyone into staying if they don't want to stay. So every individual player will have to form their own view.

"When it comes to that policy, I really do not see it changing and I think the logic's pretty compelling."

Pulver argued that choosing Wallabies from overseas clubs would likely allow a flow of playing talent from Australia and weaken the country's competitions.

Folau has said he is happy to stay in rugby union, but this week admitted he would explore "all options" after the 2015 World Cup.

Pulver said he was optimistic the dynamic running fullback would commit to Australian rugby long-term.

He added that he was hopeful Folau would place prestige and the chance to become Australia's greatest-ever player above money.

"He's a phenomenal talent. He could well be on a path to being the best rugby player in the world. He could be on a path to being the most significant rugby player in Australian history," he said.

"He's an incredible talent. Fans gravitate towards the guy and he lights up whatever field he runs on to.

"So is he a great asset to Australian rugby? Clearly. Would we love to keep him long-term? Clearly. From what I understand of Israel Folau's position, I think he's loving our game.

"I think there's a lot of reasons why he should stay."

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