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Samu still awaiting NZR clearance for Wallabies chance

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WELLINGTON (Reuters) – The international future of Pete Samu remained in limbo on Thursday with New Zealand Rugby (NZR) yet to decide on the player’s release for Australia’s test series against Ireland next month.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika omitted Samu from his squad on Wednesday but said pointedly that he wanted to name the loose forward but was prevented from doing so by matters “out of his hands”.

Melbourne-born Samu, who will join the Canberra-based ACT Brumbies in Super Rugby next season, is contracted to the reigning champion Canterbury Crusaders and also New Zealand’s Tasman provincial side.

“There’s no decision,” an NZR spokesperson said on Thursday. “We still are considering a request from Rugby Australia, but have made no decision yet.”

Meanwhile, the 26-year-old’s Super Rugby coach Scott Robertson said he was pleased that Samu was in Cheika’s plans and would abide with whatever was worked out between the two governing bodies.

“We’ll support New Zealand Rugby’s decision,” Crusaders coach Robertson told reporters in Christchurch on Thursday. “He is going to be a Wallaby at some stage isn’t he? If it is in June, and they decide it, then great — good on him.

“He’s an Australian who wants to play for Australia, he is good enough to be a Wallaby so we will see when that occurs.”

Robertson added that Samu’s decision to move to the Brumbies would not count against him in the Christchurch-based side’s remaining Super Rugby fixtures.

“He’s contracted to the Crusaders — if he plays well enough he’ll play,” Robertson added. “I wouldn’t say it is an issue at all and the way we handle it is like we would with any other contract. It is the nature of the sport.”

Players selected for national teams have to be released for international duty according to World Rugby rules, however, the global governing body has an exception for those eligible for multiple countries.

Under Regulation 9.38, players who are contracted to a country they are eligible for can be restricted from appearing for a second country.

Samu first played for Tasman when he was 22 and could have been selected for the All Blacks on residency grounds, but was overlooked by coach Steve Hansen for the June series against France.

The tug-of-war echoes the recent public battle over England’s selection of Wellington Hurricanes captain Brad Shields for their series against South Africa.

Shields had signed with English club Wasps at the conclusion of Super Rugby, but NZR initially baulked at releasing him while he was still contracted to a New Zealand team.

The governing body later granted Shields a temporary release from his Hurricanes contract because he had been “an exceptional leader… and a loyal servant to New Zealand Rugby.”

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Ian Ransom and John O’Brien)

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