ABs door still shut to Japan-bound Mo’unga and overseas players

JOE ALLISON/GETTY IMAGES Richie Mo'unga in action for the Crusaders against the Brumbies in Christchurch on Friday.

New Zealand Rugby has no plans to revisit its All Blacks selection policy on overseas-based players, despite the loss of No 10 Richie Mo’unga to Japan in 2024.

The NZ Rugby board was presented with a proposal involving Beauden Barrett last year, which would have seen Barrett remain available for the All Blacks despite playing in Japan.

The proposal was based on Barrett’s long service – he has 113 All Blacks caps – but it was kicked into touch, with the board fearful that it would open a can of worms that would eventually degrade Super Rugby.

Stuff understands the idea has not been revisited and appears dead in the water for now, despite the appointment of Scott Robertson as All Blacks coach from 2024 on a four-year deal.

Robertson has formed a highly successful partnership with Crusaders and All Blacks No 10 Mo’unga, who has signed a three-year deal with Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo.

However, this may well be the 28-year-old Mo’unga’s last year in an All Blacks jersey as NZ Rugby stays firm on its selection policy.

All Blacks centre Rieko Ioane is also reported to be weighing up a move to Japan, where the money on offer is significant.

To date, NZ Rugby has dealt with that threat by offering players the opportunity to play for a season or two in Japan before returning to New Zealand.

Hurricanes captain Ardie Savea will do exactly that in 2024, spending one season with Kobe.

NZ Rugby remains concerned that if it allowed a player such as Barrett to leave and still play for the All Blacks, it would frequently have to tinker with the policy – as has happened in Australia.

Rugby Australia currently allows the Wallabies to pick three players based overseas, but new coach Eddie Jones has already signalled he would like to see that relaxed.

Meanwhile, NZ Rugby has told South Africa that it is keeping an open mind about its proposal to shift the Rugby Championship to a new March-April window, but has definitively ruled out moving it back to February-March in line with the Six Nations.

It emerged earlier this week that Sanzaar was drawing up some new models for the Rugby Championship, one of which would be the March-April window.

However, the idea has significant hurdles in front of it, not least the necessity to create a new player release window for international rugby.

If the Rugby Championship were to take place in March-April – following on the heels of the Six Nations – European clubs would face a 12-week window where they didn’t have access to either their domestic test players or their South African and Argentinian stars.

They would likely baulk at that idea.

In addition, Japanese clubs would also lose their heavy contingent of Springboks, with the likes of hooker Malcolm Marx, Damian de Allende, Faf de Klerk and Lood de Jager on Japanese deals.

However, NZ Rugby would also listen to proposals to tweak the current August-September window, to give South Africa a better chance of managing their test players who feature in the United Rugby Championship competition in the Northern Hemisphere.

A return of all four South African franchises to Super Rugby appears to be a long shot, with South Africa having invested in the United Rugby Championship – which has also opened the door to the highly prized European Cup for their franchises.

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