Mark Ella would like to see All Black stars such as Beauden Barrett allowed to play in Australia without having to turn their back on the All Blacks. (Photo: Photosport)
11 May 2018 – Radio New Zealand
Wallabies great Mark Ella has called for an open door policy allowing rugby players more freedom of movement between countries.
New Zealand teams have now won 38 consecutive games against Australian sides and Ella says the New Zealand dominance is damaging the credibility of the competition.
Even axing the Western Force, reducing Australia to four teams, has not turned the tide.
Ella believes governing body SANZAAR should now work with the national bodies to redistribute playing talent around the Super Rugby teams in Australia, Argentina, New Zealand, South Africa and Japan to stem the Kiwis’ “unhealthy” dominance.
“After the Waratahs’ loss to the Blues last Saturday I can’t see an Australian team beating a New Zealand team this season,” Ella said.
“If that happens, we would have gone two years without winning a single game against Kiwi opposition. That is totally unacceptable.
“If you can’t beat them, sign them. Imagine what a difference it would make if the Brumbies signed Beauden Barrett or if the Waratahs recruited Brodie Retallick.”
“You would just need one or two key Kiwi players to make the Australian teams competitive again,” he said.
“If players were free to play for any team in the competition, it would help to level out the playing field and make Super Rugby a much better competition.
“Right now it is just a competition between four strong Kiwi sides,” said Ella.
At present Australia and New Zealand will only select players for the Wallabies and All Blacks respectively if those players are playing for Super Rugby teams in their own country with the exception of Australia’s 60-Test threshold rule for overseas-based players.
But Ella believes the restriction should be lifted, allowing wider use of New Zealand’s great depth in talent.
A Super Rugby player is a Super Rugby player,” Ella said. “He should be allowed to play for any team in the competition.”
While he acknowledges his proposal is radical, Ella argues desperate times called for desperate measures.
He fears Australian fans will “turn off’ Super Rugby altogether if the Australian teams continue to lose to their New Zealand rivals and that could have serious ramifications for Australia when SANZAAR negotiated the next broadcast deal.
“I understand why the national unions in Australia and New Zealand prefer their players to play for their own Super Rugby teams because it helps to prepare for Test rugby, particularly in New Zealand where they have a centralised system.
“But it is in New Zealand’s interests for Australian rugby to be strong even if that means lending us some of their Super Rugby players.”
[Read the Radio NZ article].