The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) has announced a major change to its Test squad selection policy five months before the Rugby World Cup.
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With immediate effect, overseas-based Australia internationals who have played more than 60 Tests for the Wallabies and held a professional ARU contract for at least seven years will be available to head coach Michael Cheika.
Previously, all overseas-based players were ineligible to be picked, and the move could now open the door to an international recall for players like Toulon stars Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell and Lyon openside George Smith.
Will Genia, Adam-Ashley Cooper and Quade Cooper, meanwhile, are all set to embark on post-World Cup club careers in France, while lock and former Wallabies skipper James Horwill has signed for Harlequins.
Australia rugby bosses change rules for international eligibility. James Horwill could play for @QuinsRugbyUnion and Australia next season
— James Pratt TV/Sport (@JamesPrattTV) April 22, 2015
Genia, Cooper and Horwill are all close to 60 caps, but will now still be in Wallabies reckoning once they hit that figure, along with cap centurion Ashley-Cooper.
Australian Rugby Union chief executive Bill Pulver said: “This is a pivotal moment for rugby in Australia, where for the first time in its professional history, the ARU will allow overseas-based players who have made a significant contribution to Australian rugby to become eligible for the Qantas Wallabies.
“It’s a decision that recognises the changing dynamics of a global rugby market for professional players.
“We feel this decision allows the ARU to assert more influence over player movement and contracting in Australia and abroad.”
While Mitchell is one of six world-class wingers alongside Henry Speight, Rob Horne, Joe Tomane, Ashley-Cooper and Nick Cummins.
Cheika said: “From speaking with many of them, I know they still have a huge desire to represent Australia
“In the end, we want the best players being rewarded for playing the majority of their career in Australia, and this is an important step to the future growth and success of the Wallabies.”
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