Australia
Marquee Aussies now less attractive in Europe: Fisher
Brett McKay
May 14, 2015
Ruck'n Maul: Reds risk losing fans

Australian marquee players are now less attractive on the European transfer market as a secondary result of the Australian Rugby Union's recent policy shift on the selection of overseas-based players, Laurie Fisher says.

The policy quickly dubbed "Giteau's Law", for the highly likely Test rebirth of 92-Test star and reigning French Top 14 Player of the Year Matt Giteau, requires players to have 60 Test caps and seven years' professional service to Australian rugby, and Fisher, the Australian coach of recently crowned European Rugby Challenge Cup winners Gloucester told ESPN exclusively that his club "wouldn't want to recruit those players and then not have them for the International window".

"That's a distinct possibility, yes," Fisher said when asked if the ARU policy shift had made Australian players less attractive to European club recruiters. "Most often, you're signing those players because they can play throughout the International window, and because they've finished their [Test] careers, so it does decrease the attraction, yes. And a lot of the asking prices are so high, so I think it does change the landscape a little.

The ARU's policy overhaul is likely to result in a Test recall for Matt Giteau © Getty Images
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"I obviously can't speak for other clubs, but [from a Gloucester perspective] you wouldn't want to recruit those players and then not have them for the International window. That's part of the reason to recruit those players, so that you do still have some [international] quality during that period. It will be interesting to see how that evolves."

Harlequins and Stade Francais, more immediately, might now be wondering about the value of the lucrative contracts signed by James Horwill and Will Genia, respectively, given the 58-cap Wallabies veterans almost certainly will play the two Tests they need to qualify under the new selection policy before remaining in Europe after the Rugby World Cup in September and October. Unless Horwill and Genia, and the other Australian players who do already - or will very soon - qualify for Wallabies selection while playing overseas knew something might have been in the wings, this policy shift must have come as a tremendous shock to the European clubs.

Further flow-ons also spring to mind when considering the future recruitment of Australian players given the new ARU selection policy.

The first is that overseas clubs will want qualified Australian players to announce their retirement from Test rugby if the stars are to command the same kind of premium salaries; there is already pressure on Polynesian players to bypass the Rugby World Cup in order to remain on club rosters, so don't think it couldn't also apply to Australian players who tick the '60 + 7' boxes.

Stade Francais are unlikely to be happy Will Genia will be available for the Wallabies while he's in Paris © Getty Images
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The second is that players such as Nick Phipps, Liam Gill, Matt Toomua and Israel Folau, who don't tick either of the '60+7' boxes, may now be subject to ever-more lucrative offers to head overseas.

Overseas clubs may now shift their focus away from players looking to play abroad later in their career, instead targeting younger players with, say, 20 to 30 Tests under their belt and a little uncertainty as to whether they can still play the required number of Tests to qualify for ongoing selection from overseas.

By forcing the wealthy European clubs to rethink how they target Australian players, the ARU policy might actually shift the focus of the higher premium salaries: why spend half-a-million euros per season on a 65-Test player you'll lose for a few months during the season when, for the same money, you can entice away a younger, 25-Test player who'll be available throughout the club campaign? It's quite plausible - possible even - that the players the ARU can perhaps afford to lose the least might just become the players they can't afford to keep, either. And that raises the question - already posed by ESPN columnist Greg Growden - as to whether the ARU may start to reduce the value of either the 60 or the 7 boxes of their new policy.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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