All Blacks

Wallaby coach on the ‘Sabbatical’ debate

Wallaby coach on the ‘Sabbatical’ debate
O'Rocky - learned a thing or two

O'Rocky - learned a thing or two

Incoming Wallaby skills coach, Richard Graham, has given his support to top line players taking short-term overseas contracts as a way of improving their skills and re-invigorating themselves.

Graham took a longer term view about player development, distinctly opposed to the short term view recently put forward by former All Black, Christian Cullen.

Cullen, who had his own sabbatical of sorts with Irish province Munster, albeit at the age of 27 and toward at the end of his All Black career, recently told AFP the whole idea of sabbaticals, was an evil for the game.

“I think it’s dangerous. You give Dan Carter that, you have to give Richie McCaw the same opportunity, Ali Williams, Mils (Muliaina). I think it’s setting a dangerous precedent,” Cullen said.

“You don’t want the All Blacks to become mercenaries where all the good All Blacks are overseas and then they come back and play Test matches, because it will kill the game in New Zealand.”

This is at odds with the longer term view put forward by Graham.

In a recent conversation with G&GR, Graham put forward his reasons why a ‘sabbatical’ was a positive for a player, using the latest international rugby commodity, Rocky Elsom, as an example.

“The great thing about it is, as an international, you can come over here (Europe) for a short period and then go back to the international scene, provided your good enough of course. Using Rocky as a test case, he’s just experienced something for seven months that he’s enjoyed and it has been completely different for him.”

“Whilst people say it’s a sabbatical, he’s probably played more games for Leinster (Elsom’s Irish team) than he would have in Australia. He’s playing against different opposition teams, different players – in the Super 14 he plays the same player’s year in year out, also with the Wallabies he’s up against basically the same players. While that’s not to diminish how special playing a test match is, there’s a sameness there.”

Graham also stated his belief that players returning from these short stints would return better players due to the exposure to new ways of doing things and different rugby styles.

Using Elsom as an example again Graham went further.

“There’ll be aspects of the game over here (Europe) that he picks up and improves on that aren’t so common in Super 14, so definitely there will be an improvement in his play. Playing 20 odd games for Leinster, it stimulates him, refreshes him, it’ll be good for him.”

It is hard to take Cully’s argument seriously when essentially he was the same mercenary that he now decries.

We constantly hear that rugby is a global game, so maybe it is time to embrace this global influence, rather than thinking a player should be bound by his limited local boundaries.

All Blacks

Mr Consistently Average

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