Foreign legion won't waltz into cup contention
November 29, 2013
James O'Connor must return home if he is to play at Rugby World Cup 2015 © Twitter
Ewen McKenzie has laid down the law to foreign-based Wallabies such as James O'Connor and Digby Ioane, saying they won't waltz into Rugby World Cup calculations if they return home midway through 2015.
O'Connor, Ioane and other Australian stars are keen to play in the showpiece tournament - kicking off in September 2015 - after finishing lucrative overseas contracts, but McKenzie will retain strict guidelines for selection. The Wallabies coach is determined to stick by Australian-based players, saying the foreign legion must be registered for the 2015 Super Rugby season by late 2014, and be back home in time, to be eligible for his consideration.
Ioane has signed a two-year deal with Paris glamour club Stade Francais that ends in late May in 2015 - too late according to McKenzie's stipulations. O'Connor is currently on a short-term contract with London Irish, and he must sign with one of the five Super Rugby teams for 2015 to be in line for a World Cup call-up.
McKenzie wants his players playing a full Super season, or close to it, and he won't relent even if they sneak into provincial sides after June if spots open up through injury replacement grounds.
"The guys who want to be playing World Cup have to be playing Super Rugby in 2015," McKenzie said. "There's a lot of people talking about it, but in the end you have to do something about it. You can't just cherry-pick on the way through and grab all the trinkets on the way. It has to be a complete investment [in Australian rugby]."
The Super Rugby season starts in February, three months before the end of the European seasons.
McKenzie will wave goodbye to Sitaleki Timani for at least a year at the end of the current European tour, as the lock will link with Montpellier next week on a two-season deal with an option after one.
"It's up to [Timani] to decide how long that deal is," McKenzie said. "The ball is in his court. Guys understand what our expectations are."
Unlike South Africa and European nations, the Wallabies and New Zealand select only home-based players to ensure a strong domestic competition. "In the end you want to see blokes make the sacrifice to wear the jersey, and do their best," McKenzie said.
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