Sabbaticals a key to retain top Wallabies

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Sam Cordingley thinks sabbaticals for key Australian-based Wallabies should be embraced as part of a more flexible approach to retain the country's best rugby talent.

The former Wallabies halfback and current Queensland Reds football manager has urged administrators to plan now ahead of the 2023 World Cup, after which a host of talent headlined by wrecking ball Taniela Tupou will hit the open market.

Circumstances brought about by COVID-19 led to the relaxation of the Giteau Law for this year's Tests, with players like Samu Kerevi and Sean McMahon selected for the Wallabies from foreign clubs without meeting the 60-cap or seven-year service threshold.

Kerevi starred during the Rugby Championship on home soil but then didn't tour with the side to the United Kingdom, along with McMahon and Quade Cooper opting to remain in Japan for preseason training.

A frustrated Cordingley pointing out the irony of the trio's absences considering a number of his teammates at his Suntory club are currently representing Japan in Europe.

The selection policy for overseas-based players is set for permanent change after discussions in coming months, a conversation Cordingley hopes the Australian Super Rugby clubs are fully involved in.

"There should be some level of flexibility, but there needs to be a threshold of entitlement," Cordingley said.

"I'm not a big believer in the carte blanche approach to it; it needs to be measured and we need to have a deeper look into the current contracting model and ... a lot remains untested at the moment in my view.

"We've got opportunities around flexible contracting, sabbaticals, discussions around amended term contracts and things that could be added to a new CBA that could be advantageous."

He cited New Zealand's history of success with sabbaticals as well as Wallabies captain Michael Hooper's time in Japan last season.

"For mine he's in career best form at the moment," Cordingley said.

"Taniela is a good example ... off contract after the World Cup, we know the risk, we have to be strategic and that might mean losing them for a year or so (overseas).

"It's only fair (that they want to earn good money overseas); we have to provide more flexibility around the model and test some things out.

"That doesn't come without meaningful planning and that's where we need to get to."

He also pushed back at the concept of centralisation between Rugby Australia and the five Super Rugby clubs, instead urging for "alignment".

"Diversity of viewpoints is an important part of the game in Australia," he said.

"You have to move cautiously about a single body making all of the decisions.

"We believe in a competitive advantage, we don't believe in a system that aims to equalise.

"Every team needs to aspire to (create) a competitive advantage."

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