The ARU have introduced “flexible contracts” which allow selected players to take an overseas sabbatical midway through their deals with the national body.
In a bid to stop the risk of star Wallabies such as Israel Folau leaving after the 2015 World Cup, the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) has changed its rules to allow overseas sabbaticals.
The ARU has approved the introduction of “flexible contracts” for a select number of Wallabies after 2016 that will allow them to play a season in Japan or France midway through their deals.
The player would have to commit to a deal of three years or more to be eligible, and the ARU will determine the number of deals granted to ensure the Wallabies remain “sufficiently strong”.
Players like full-back Folau and half-back Will Genia remain the biggest targets for cashed-up overseas clubs looking for Test stars after next year’s World Cup.
The ARU generally prevent overseas-based players from representing the Wallabies.
ARU CEO Bill Pulver said flexible contract policy would help the Wallabies retain its best players long-term.
“We’ve recognised that in the context of an increasingly global market for rugby players that we need to take a more flexible approach to player contracting,” Pulver said.
“As such, we need to be proactive and adapt our policies to best serve the interests of rugby in Australia.
“By adopting a flexible contracting model, we’re creating a platform for our players to experience what rugby has to offer in Australia and abroad, all while maintaining their allegiance to Australian rugby over a long-term period.
“We’re confident this flexibility will encourage players to make significant long-term commitments to Australian rugby and help us to minimise the number of players who permanently re-locate to foreign leagues.
“Decisions regarding all flexible contracts will be made on a case-by-case basis, understanding that our key priority remains that the Wallabies and Super Rugby provinces have a strong and deep playing pool of talent available each year.”