Berrick Barnes suggests rethink of Test eligibility rules

Former Wallabies star Berrick Barnes has taken to life in Japan like a koi to water.

Former Wallabies star Berrick Barnes has taken to life in Japan like a koi to water.

The former Waratahs and Test playmaker, who joined Top League side Panasonic Wild Knights last year, picked up the competition’s most valuable player award two weeks ago.

Barnes scored 30 points in Panasonic’s 45-22 win over fellow Australian George Smith’s side Suntory Sungoliath in the Top League final and says the spell overseas has reinvigorated his love for rugby.

But he does not think playing overseas is everyone’s cup of tea, and rejects the Australian Rugby Union’s argument that relaxing its Test eligibility rules would trigger a mass exodus of talent from Super Rugby.

”People think everyone’s going to leave, but I tell you what, before you put pen to paper there are a fair few things that come home to roost,” Barnes said. ”You have to leave your creature comforts at home, and we have it pretty good in Australia.

”When we got over here it was a bit of a shock, you can’t read anything at a supermarket, if something breaks in your place you’re going, ‘What the hell does that mean?’ … it’s not easy. That’s why I find it funny when they say, ‘Everyone will leave’. I struggle to see that coming to fruition.”

Barnes’ comments are timely in light of news fellow former Wallaby Digby Ioane is toying with the idea of leaving a big-money deal in France for the comforts of home. Peter Kimlin has also sounded out former club the Brumbies about a return, just one season into the second-rower’s stint with French club Grenoble.

The 2015 World Cup is the major factor. Barnes confirmed a return to Australia at the end of the next Japanese season was still an option.

”I’m looking forward to getting a break and then once we come back [from Australia] next year I’ll work out a bit of a plan as to whether I come back or stay on,” he said.

”That’s why I went to Japan over Europe, because its proximity to Australia is better and the seasons match up better …

”You might come in at round three or four, but you pretty much will have played the whole year in the end. The guys in Europe are going to be doing it a lot tougher. Having said that, once you get playing people don’t really care about dates, they just want the best team selected, and that’s how it should be.”

Barnes’ teammates at Panasonic include half a dozen Japanese Test players as well as Springbok J..P Pietersen and former Wallabies utility forward Daniel Heenan. Pietersen and fellow South Africans Jaque Fourie (Kobe Steel) and Fourie du Preez (Suntory Sungoliath), all played for the Springboks last year.

South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer used his union’s more relaxed eligibility rules to select several overseas-based players last season.

”South Africa obviously has a far bigger playing market and they can cope somewhat with being able to do that, but in saying that they do seem to be picking a lot of their blokes who are overseas,” Barnes said. ”Put it this way, they’re not losing anything and [the players] aren’t letting them down when they go back and play, so that’s that argument sorted.

”But it’s a hard one. We knew what we were giving up when we left, that’s for sure, so there’s no real hard feelings or anything.”

In the meantime, Barnes is soaking up all that the game in Japan has to offer which, it turns out, is quite a bit. He regularly works with big-name coaches such as Eddie Jones, Robbie Deans, Phil Mooney and Highlanders assistant Tony Brown.

And on-field he meets the likes of Smith, du Preez and former All Black Richard Kahui. The change has been a welcome one.

”It’s not as physical over here, the sheer size of the players means they’re not as big, but in terms of speed it’s right up there, it’s fast.”

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Berrick Barnes suggests rethink of Test eligibility rules
Japanese Test – Yahoo News Search Results
Japanese Test – Yahoo News Search Results

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