New Zealand Must Change Eligibility Rules To Succeed - Ruck

New Zealand Must Change Eligibility Rules To Succeed

New Zealand, as a rugby nation, has very strict eligibility rules in place when it comes to qualifying to play for the All Blacks. However, after not winning the World Cup since 2015 and being defeated by South Africa in last year’s final, it’s time for change in the eyes of many, as New Zealand aim to make it back to the top of the sport.

At present, if players want to represent New Zealand at international level and turn out for the All Blacks, they must be plying their trade in New Zealand at domestic level. Otherwise, they will not be eligible to play for their country. And, there is a belief from many that this is potentially holding the All Blacks back on the biggest stages of them all. Sports betting markets online have them pegged as favourites regularly, as they did for the 2023 World Cup and do currently for the 2027 World Cup, only for New Zealand to disappoint and fail to get the job done.

Former players such as All Blacks legend Aaron Smith have called for change with the eligibility laws that are currently in place, believing that there should be criteria that allow those who have left New Zealand to still play for the All Blacks if they tick the required boxes. Smith has suggested if a player has played for X number of years or made Y number of Test appearances, it would mean he still qualifies to be selected for New Zealand at international level.

There’s no doubt that the rules that are currently in place help the sport of rugby union in New Zealand in a significant way, almost being a driving force behind it thriving. When players who have aspirations of becoming a senior international for New Zealand, especially young players, they’re going to stay put in the country, which, in turn, means the Super League benefits from that and the pool of talent within. But, the knock-on effect has seen the All Blacks fail to win the last two World Cups, and many feel they’d have had more of a chance of success if those who have left New Zealand to play abroad could have been involved.

Scott Robertson has come in as the latest head coach of New Zealand, and he himself has urged the powers that be to remain open-minded where the eligibility rules are concerned, primarily because some modifications here and there could make all the difference as the All Blacks gear towards preparing for the next World Cup which takes place in 2027. There have even been calls from the likes of Ardie Savea to scrap the eligibility laws completely, but this seems unlikely and probably unnecessary.

The likelihood is that the performances at the last two World Cups will be reviewed before a decision is made on the eligibility front for upcoming international tours and tournaments. A tweak here and there could instantly make the All Blacks much stronger and in with a greater chance of success, especially when they’ll be able to call on some excellent players who, at this moment in time, don’t qualify for selection.