Ian Foster uncomfortable with ex-All Black Tawera Kerr-Barlow’s quest to play for Wallabies

All Blacks coach Ian Foster appears uncomfortable with former All Blacks halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow’s quest to play for the Wallabies in a groundbreaking move for rugby.

Kerr-Barlow, 32, was born in Melbourne but moved to Hamilton at 13 and made his name in rugby in New Zealand with the Chiefs and went on to make 29 appearances for the All Blacks from 2012 to 2017, including being part of the 2015 World Cup winning squad.

World Rugby’s eligibility laws have been eased to allow players to make an international switch after 36 months of inactivity. They must either have been born in the nation they wish to transfer to or have a parent or grandparent born in that country.

Rockliffe Hall / Facebook

All Blacks Victor Vito, Ben Smith and Tawera Kerr Barlow sing Stevie Wonder classic at Rockcliffe Hall in Darlington, UK.

Foster accepted the legality of Kerr-Barlow’s intentions but said “it kind of doesn’t feel right to me”.

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“Look, it’s just a consequence of World Rugby’s eligibility laws. It kind of doesn’t feel right to me, but rules are rules, and he’s entitled,” Foster said when quizzed on the development during an All Blacks media session in Christchurch on Thursday.

Asked why it didn’t feel right, Foster, who hails from Kerr-Barlow’s home New Zealand province and had plenty to do with him in the All Blacks, said: “All I know is the beauty that he brought into the All Blacks camp , he’s a quality person and quality rugby player, so there is no judgment on that decision.

“But what I remember from him is the influence he had in our environment, which is fantastic. To kind of think of that going somewhere else is a bit funny. “

Former All Black and Chief Tawera Kerr-Barlow was rated as the best defensive No 9 in the world before he moved to France.

Justin Setterfield / Getty-Images

Former All Black and Chief Tawera Kerr-Barlow was rated as the best defensive No 9 in the world before he moved to France.

Senior All Black Sam Whitelock, named to play Argentina in Christchurch on Saturday, was nonplussed.

“I actually just found out before on the bus on the way back from the gym,” Whitelock said.

“My initial thought was just let him play. It’s just going to add motivation for us to play against him

“He’s a great player and he’s done some amazing things for us but it’s no different to any other player playing one or two games and then changing after a couple of years of not being available for that team.”

The relaxing of the eligibility rules has already seen former Wallabies star Israel Folau, and former All Blacks Charles Piutau, Malakai Fekitoa and Augustine Pulu play for Tonga.

But Kerr-Barlow, who also played for Waikato and the Maori All Blacks, would be the first player to switch between two tier one nations.

“Unlike New Zealand, Australia has a rule allowing players who are overseas to still be eligible for selection. I am available to play for the Wallabies,” Kerr-Barlow told Rugbyrama in France where he plays for La Rochelle.

“I was born there. I have a lot of ties in this country and if the staff calls me I will go without hesitation. It would be a great opportunity but for the moment I am focused on La Rochelle.”

Tawera Kerr-Barlow is rekindling his Australian heritage with an eye on a Wallabies jersey.

Hannah Peters / Getty Images

Tawera Kerr-Barlow is rekindling his Australian heritage with an eye on a Wallabies jersey.

Kerr-Barlow’s mother was also an international halfback, playing for Australia.

Kerr-Barlow’s plea for consideration comes ahead of next year’s World Cup in France.

Australia’s rules allow their Kiwi coach Dave Rennie to select three overseas-based players per squad, providing they have a minimum 30 test caps or have spent five years previously contracted to a Super Rugby franchise.

Rennie and Kerr-Barlow have history, with Rennie coaching the Chiefs from 2012-17, leading them to two titles.

Nic White, Tate McDermott and Jake Gordon are the three Australian halfbacks named by Rennie to face South Africa in the current Rugby Championship tests over the next two weekends.

Kerr-Barlow first raised the prospect of a switch of test allegiance in an extensive interview with Rugby Pass six months ago as World Rugby’s rule changes became apparent.

“It is a really positive thing,” he said to Rugby Pass then. “You get players who play a handful of tests for a country and that is their eligibility shot and they have still got a lot to offer world rugby.

“We all want world rugby to be strong, we want it to be a spectacle and some of the best players in the world, they move overseas, and they grow and they improve. You have got the likes of Charles Piutau in England, Steven Luatua is there, you have got Victor Vito in France, you have got all these guys who could add so much to their country.

“Even myself, I’d love to chuck on the Australian jersey as I spent the first part of life in Australia, my family is still there, and I’m very grateful for what they have done for my family.

“My mum played for Australia. It [opening up eligibility] is a positive thing. You will get people saying, ‘Oh you know you’re not loyal’ or ‘How can you play for one country and play for another?’

“But if you are born in a country or your parents are born there and you feel a certain way about the country and you have got roots already established, then why not? I am a pretty open individual in terms of those sorts of things and I just want rugby to be the big thing I know it can be because if you love rugby you want it to improve. “