There is power in a union, says O'Neill - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

There is power in a union, says O'Neill

By Daniel Brettig 04/12/2008 06:47:19 PM Comments (0)

Australian rugby will fight against the forces of northern hemisphere capitalism until the global economic downturn catches up with the ambitions of French and English clubs.

ARU chief executive John O'Neill spoke in these fiercely ideological terms on Thursday when discussing the future of Wallabies five-eighth Matt Giteau.

Giteau would like to be afforded a relaxation of his ARU deal - which runs until 2011 - to allow him to entertain a $9.6 million offer from French club Bayonne.

O'Neill argued it would be irresponsible of the ARU to allow its players to move overseas and weaken the Super 14 tournament.

"It would be cavalier of the ARU to say 'you can go and play overseas and we'll do what soccer does and just pick you even though you're playing overseas'," O'Neill told AAP.

"Can you imagine the effect that would have on Super 14, where over a period of 13 years that's been the stand-out provincial rugby tournament in the world because it's had the best players in the world playing in it?

"So we really want to resist the forces of capitalism coming out of the French clubs and the English clubs, and I suspect the bubble's going to burst as a result of this economic downturn in any case.

"We're steadfast in retaining our best players, we do pay them well, and with our plans to expand Super rugby and innovations we're introducing, I think we'll be able to resist the pull of French and English clubs."

All Blacks star Daniel Carter was able to break from tradition earlier this year when he received permission to sign a six-month deal to play in France while remaining eligible for the New Zealand national team, but O'Neill said there was little chance of that model being adopted for Giteau.

"No, I think that's the thin end of the wedge so we'd prefer to stay away from that and just maintain the policy stance we have," he said.

Closer to home, Giteau is thought to be pondering a move back east from the Western Force to the Brumbies after a lucrative sponsorship deal slipped from his fingers when fuel additive venture Firepower collapsed.

Yet O'Neill was adamant that Giteau would honour his contract.

"I think it's pretty cut and dried as far as we're concerned, a contract is a contract," O'Neill said.

"It's unfortunate that the third party arrangements with Firepower fell over, but his playing contract is quite separate and he has a commitment to play in Australia until the end of 2011 and one more year with Western Force.

"It's not that we're wishing to be difficult, it's just a statement of fact."

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