The Australian Rugby Union will allow overseas sabbaticals to prevent losing key players like Israel Folau.
The changes were approved by the ARU board on Monday and will see the introduction of ‘flexible contracts’ for a select number of players who commit their future to Australian rugby on long-term deals.
From 2016, the ARU will have the ability to offer players the opportunity to play one season in a foreign domestic competition during the course of a long-term contract with Australian rugby.
In addition, players who represent Australia in sevens at the 2016 Olympics will be granted permission to play the 2016-17 Japanese domestic season without affecting their eligibility for the Wallabies upon their return in 2017.
Flexible contracts allow the ARU and Super Rugby provinces to reward players deemed to be making a significant contribution to rugby in Australia.
ARU CEO Bill Pulver said the new policy will help retain players in the country long-term.
'We’ve recognised that in the context of an increasingly global market for rugby players that we need to take a more flexible approach to player contracting. As such, we need to be proactive and adapt our policies to best serve the interests of rugby in Australia.
'By adopting a flexible contracting model, we’re creating a platform for our players to experience what rugby has to offer in Australia and abroad, all while maintaining their allegiance to Australian rugby over a long-term period.
'We’re confident this flexibility will encourage players to make significant long-term commitments to Australian rugby and help us to minimise the number of players who permanently re-locate to foreign leagues.
'Decisions regarding all flexible contracts will be made on a case-by-case basis, understanding that our key priority remains that the Wallabies and Super Rugby provinces to have a strong and deep playing pool of talent available each year.'
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