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Players 'crazy' not to consider overseas sabbaticals

Matt Toomua could be a target for cashed-up overseas clubs.

Matt Toomua could be a target for cashed-up overseas clubs. Photo: Getty Images

Australia's best players would be "crazy" if they did not consider rich sabbatical deals overseas, ACT Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham said, and he believes the ARU's new "flexible contracts" will stop the game from going broke.

But Larkham does fear the Brumbies could suffer if too many of the club's stars negotiate temporary stints in lucrative competitions such as France or Japan.

From 2016, the ARU will allow Wallabies players to spend one season on an international "sabbatical" if they commit to the Wallabies for three or more years.

Super Rugby clubs will also be free to negotiate a deal for one player outside the Wallabies system to cash in on a contract abroad.

Wallabies greats Larkham and George Gregan, who finished their careers in Japan, said the new protocols were in the best interests of the game.

The former Test halves believe such a rule could have kept star players such as George Smith, Ben Mowen and Matt Giteau in Australian rugby.

But Larkham admitted it could come at a cost of playing personnel for Australian Super Rugby teams. The ARU will "exclusively" negotiate the deals with its top players and ensure the Wallabies are "sufficiently strong".

"Everyone will look at [a sabbatical]; they'd be crazy not to," Larkham said.

"The ARU will make a decision on how many and who. It's a way for the ARU to keep the top players ... without becoming bankrupt.

"Depending on how many go, it's slightly concerning because the pre-season for Super Rugby is so short now. Your career in rugby is finite and there's some really good money on offer overseas."

The Brumbies re-signed a host of Wallabies stars this year, including Matt Toomua, Christian Lealiifano, Nic White, Scott Fardy, Joseph Tomane and Scott Sio.

The challenge will come after the World Cup next year, when cashed-up clubs in France and Japan will look to lure the best players in the world to join their teams.

The ARU has settled on its new protocols, but it is understood it also put forward a proposal that would allow players who had given 50 Tests of service to the Wallabies to spend a year overseas.

Giteau played 92 Tests for Australia before moving to Toulon, regarded as the richest club in the world.

But the former Brumbies playmaker is still playing well enough to warrant selection in the Wallabies.

The cash-strapped ARU has been struggling to match the rich deals of overseas rivals.

The new flexible contracts could play a major role in cross-code superstar Israel Folau staying in rugby, with the lure of playing Sevens at the 2016 Olympic Games also a massive carrot.

In the past, players have only been eligible to play for the Wallabies if they play in Australia, putting the lure of the Test jersey up against big dollars on offer overseas.

Larkham moved to Scotland after retiring from Australian rugby in 2007 and then finished his career with the Ricoh Black Rams in Japan.

Gregan finished his career by playing with Toulon in France and Suntory in Japan. 

"It's a good thing for Australian rugby ... once they clarify the qualifications, it's a great idea," Gregan said.

"If it's managed well it can work for both parties. Players don't miss out financially and they come back refreshed and reinvigorated with that drive again.

"Some people think it's just running away for the cash, but from a financial perspective the players have to be entitled to that and it will help with the financial stress in Australian rugby."

Rugby Internationals 2014

Round 1
Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 18 vs TGA 18 Report Stats
FJI 25 vs ITA 14 Report Stats
NZL 20 vs ENG 15 Report Stats
AUS 50 vs FRA 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 47 vs WXV 13 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 29 Report Stats
USA 6 vs SCO 24 Report Stats
CAN 25 vs JPN 34 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sat, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 15 vs ITA Report Stats
FJI 45 vs TGA 17 Report Stats
NZL 28 vs ENG 27 Report Stats
AUS 6 vs FRA Report Stats
Sun, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 38 vs WAL 16 Report Stats
CAN 17 vs SCO 19 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 23 Report Stats
USA 29 vs JPN 37 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
ARG 19 vs SCO 21 Report Stats
FJI 13 vs SAM 18 Report Stats
JPN 26 vs ITA 23 Report Stats
AUS 39 vs FRA 13 Stats
NZL 36 vs ENG 13 Report Stats
Sun, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 31 vs WAL 30 Report Stats
USA 38 vs CAN 35 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Sun, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 55 vs SCO 6 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
BAR vs AUS 01:30Twic
USA vs NZL 07:00Soldier Field
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA vs SAM 01:00Stadio Del Duca
ENG vs NZL 01:30Twic
WAL vs AUS 01:30MilS
FRA vs FJI 03:45Stade Velodrome
IRE vs RSA 04:30Lansdowne Road
SCO vs ARG 04:30Murrayfield Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Sun, 16 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA vs ARG 01:00Stadio Comunale Luigi Ferraris
ENG vs RSA 01:30Twic
WAL vs FJI 01:30MilS
SCO vs NZL 04:30Murrayfield Stadium
FRA vs AUS 07:00StdF
Mon, 17 NovTimes shown AEDT
IRE vs GEO 01:30Lansdowne Road
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Sun, 23 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA vs RSA 01:00Stadio Plebiscito
SCO vs TGA 01:30Rugby Park
IRE vs AUS 03:30Lansdowne Road
WAL vs NZL 04:30MilS
ENG vs SAM 06:00Twic
FRA vs ARG 07:00StdF
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Sun, 30 NovTimes shown AEDT
ENG vs AUS 01:30Twic
WAL vs RSA 01:30MilS
View All Fixtures
 
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