A live broadcast Wallabies team announcement wouldn't normally make for compelling viewing on this side of the Tasman but tonight is different.

The Wallabies will name their squad for the June series against Ireland at 9.30pm NZ time and the big question is whether current Crusaders loose forward Pete Samu will be among the 33 players.

Rugby Australia have written to New Zealand Rugby seeking permission for Samu to be released during the June international window – creating a similar scenario to the one in which Hurricanes loose forward Brad Shields found himself earlier this month.

Samu effectively needs the NZR to sanction his temporary release from Crusaders' obligations in June.


While the competition is on hold during the international programme, the Crusaders still have a couple of 'friendly' games and players are not on leave during that three-week period.

He will be expected to train and be available for the Crusaders unless he has NZR permission to be with the Wallabies.

But NZR insisted through the saga with Shields which eventually saw him released to be available for England this June, that they have strong legal grounds to deny any contracted player permission to play for another country.

Pete Samu of the Crusaders beats Brad Shields of the Hurricanes to a line out ball. Photo / Photosport
Pete Samu of the Crusaders beats Brad Shields of the Hurricanes to a line out ball. Photo / Photosport

The national body said they made an exception for Shields due to his long service and loyalty.

Samu doesn't have the same goodwill in the bank and then there is the added complication that it is the Wallabies – the All Blacks oldest and most fierce rival – who want access to him.

There is also the question of his contract with Tasman. He is due to play for them this year after Super Rugby, but that would become impossible if he is called up to play for the Wallabies during the Rugby Championship.

As a result, it is unlikely that NZR are in any hurry to make up their minds about Samu's request and could potentially leave RA hanging tonight – with no decision reached on whether they will agree or not.

That would leave the Wallabies with a tough call to make. Will they plough on regardless and name Samu anyway, believing permission will duly come?


Or, possibly, NZR could deny the request, again leaving RA with a tough call to make as to whether they should accept defeat or still name Samu and fight to overturn the decision legally?

The expectation is that RA will feel confident that they will ultimately win approval for Samu to become a Wallaby in June. They will fancy they can negotiate a sensible outcome that releases Samu and compensated Tasman.

Despite NZR's insistence they control the release of their contracted players, no other nation supports them in that stance as World Rugby's laws are clear that all players picked for test duty in the designated international windows, have to be released and no sub-clause or local contractual peculiarity can override that.

"We have received a request from Rugby Australia and we're in discussions, but nothing has been decided yet," said Chris Lendrum, NZR head of professional rugby.

Pete Samu of the Crusaders. Photo / Photosport
Pete Samu of the Crusaders. Photo / Photosport

Again, just as was the case with Shields, NZR face accusations of pettiness and spite should they deny Samu's request.

Samu, who was born and raised in Australia, signed with Tasman in 2014 and won a contract with the Crusaders in 2016.

In accepting that deal with the Crusaders, he signed the so-called Schedule Three which means he has made a commitment to play only for New Zealand national teams now that he has eligible on the three-year residency rule.

But Samu has announced that he will be leaving the Crusaders after this campaign and will join the Brumbies next year.

Knowing that Samu has made a commitment to return to Australia, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is believed to be keen to name the Crusaders loosie in his squad to play Ireland.

Samu, should he gain permission to play for the Wallabies, would return to New Zealand in late June to see out the remainder of his contract with the Crusaders.

He will be free of his contractual obligations with the Crusaders once they are knocked out – or have won Super Rugby – and therefore available to the Wallabies for the Rugby Championship, hence the feeling NZR would be petty to deny him the opportunity to play for Australia in June.