Aussie rugby chief cites schedule as roadblock to Manu-Wallabies tests

The Chief Executive Officer of Rugby Australia, Raelene Castle, said the chances of any further Wallabies matches against the Manu Samoa, including a game at Apia Park, depend on scheduling.

Speaking to the Samoa Observer in Sydney prior to the Manu Samoa's departure for the Rugby World Cup in Japan, she said they have to be responsible for athlete welfare:

“As a Tier One nation, our test schedule is really busy as it is,” she said.

She said the 13-14 tests the Wallabies already play each year is already at the upper limit of what is feasible, especially with Super Rugby on top.

“Australia and New Zealand recognise that we both need to play more games against the Pacific nations,” Castle said.

“Something that we’re very keen to see if we can fit it into the new schedule going forward.”

The comments come after Samoa's Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, put an invitation for the two nations to play a test on Samoan soil to his Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison, during bilateral talks between the two leaders in Sydney over the weekend.

Ms. Castle did say they would also love to bring the Wallabies to Apia Park at some stage:

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“It’s important for us to be looking at how we use the Wallabies to engage.”

For the test on September 7th in Sydney, Rugby Australia made the initial approach to the Samoa Rugby Union, which Raelene Castle said they did for a number of reasons:

“We wanted the Wallabies to have a trial match before they left Australia, so a chance for Australians to say goodbye.”

The Wallabies players also needed a game after their camp in New Caledonia, and the Australian Government provided financial support for the game through the Pacific Aus Sports programme, which also allowed the Samoa Rugby Union to take a rare slice of the takings from the match.

“All the puzzle pieces just came together really,” Castle said.

The CEO also said there is room for debate on the issue of international eligibility, which has always been a challenge for Pacific Island nations.

Castle said all rules need constant reviewing, and hopes the World Rugby Council can explore the issue in March:

“I think the eligibility criteria is something that World rugby should look at again, whether it still continues to deliver the outcomes we put them in place for.

“It’s important that we have credibility around our international teams so we don’t have players swapping between teams season after season.

“But at the same time I think there is a lot of talent that has played for, whether it be in the northern hemisphere or for Australia and New Zealand, that could add significant value if they went back and played for their home country.”

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