And then there were two. After a backflip by Australia, just New Zealand and England now make foreign-based players ineligible for international rugby. Every other country welcomes back these players, a situation that acknowledges the big money on offer in the Northern Hemisphere, and their belief that a continuing stand on a point of principle will simply undermine their test prospects.
But, according to Steve Tew, of New Zealand Rugby, matters are not about to change here. "You never say never but our policy is that to wear the All Black jersey, you have to play your rugby in New Zealand," he said this week.
That policy has, to an acceptable degree, worked until now. The chance to wear the All Black jersey has enticed most of our best players to spend their best years in this country.
But the Australian Rugby Union, in announcing its change of heart, pointed to "the changing dynamics of a global rugby market for professional players". That was a reference to the television-sourced millions now available to pay overseas recruits, particularly in France.
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New Zealand has already seen evidence of this in the lucrative deals offered the likes of Dan Carter, Conrad Smith and Colin Slade after this year's World Cup. Most alarmingly, other than experienced All Blacks are also being lured. Younger players on the fringes of international selection, such as Charles Piutau and Frank Halai, have also been snared.
In this scenario, New Zealand players are especially valuable because overseas clubs know their contract with them means they will not be required for international matches.
The Australians have tackled this new reality quite astutely through what amounts to long-service dispensation. To be eligible, players must have won at least 60 test caps and have held a contract with an Australian Super franchise for at least seven years. On their return to Australia, they must commit to playing Super rugby for two years. Inevitably, this will become known as the Giteau clause. As the World Cup looms, the 92-test veteran and reigning European Player of the Year is the main target of Wallaby coach Michael Cheika. Giteau will need no second invitation to leave Toulon to resume playing for the Wallabies. Another beneficiary is likely to be winger Drew Mitchell.
This approach ensures the newly eligible players have already contributed plenty to rugby in Australia. Their reward is picking up the riches available overseas while also being able to make a further contribution.
Equally, younger players will be encouraged to play in Australia long enough to enjoy the same treatment. In part, this is also, of course, an acknowledgment of Australia's particular weakness. Without the conveyor belt of promising players provided by a national provincial championship, it needs to retain as much of its talent as possible. That is made all the more difficult by the Australian Rugby Union's A$6.3 million deficit.
The new policy also has risks, not least the disturbance to a culture of togetherness prompted by a small number of players arriving from overseas. We are, indeed, entering new territory. At the moment, New Zealand Rugby may be able to stick to its guns. But that may all change if Giteau proves the winning ingredient for the Wallabies at the World Cup.