Club vs Country

The ugly face of professional rugby rears its head again.

The tug-o’-war between the professional clubs and national teams has stepped up a gear as Leicester Tigers have announced that they will force members of the Wallaby squad, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Matt Toomua to fly back to England during the upcoming Rugby Championship.

Polota-Nau (hooker) and Toomua (centre) were both named in the Wallabies’ provisional squad for their Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship opener with New Zealand in Sydney on August 18.

However, if Polota-Nau or Toomua are retained in the final squad to be announced by Michael Cheika, they will have to return to their Premiership club during the Rugby Championship’s rest weekends.

Leicester Tigers revealed the news via a statement which said: “If retained in the final squad for the upcoming Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship series, the pair are expected to return to Tigers during the Rugby Championship rest periods, which coincide with rounds 1 and 4 of the Gallagher Premiership.”

Polota-Nau, who qualifies for international selection under Rugby Australia’s overseas player selection policy rules for players with 60 Test appearances or more, has been named after being rested for the Wallabies’ recent series against Ireland in Australia.

Tigers centre Toomua qualifies for selection, despite having only made 33 Test appearances, after it was announced earlier this week that he has agreed terms to return to Australia with the Melbourne Rebels in 2019 at the conclusion of the upcoming Northern Hemisphere season.

I wonder if Leicester’s actions are not in direct contravention of World Rugby’s regulations regarding international windows? Certainly, they are showing zero concern for player welfare if they demand that the two Wallabies fly backwards and forwards between England and Australia so many times in such a short space of time.