WELLINGTON, January 26 – New Zealand rugby chiefs said Wednesday they would not change selection rules to let former All Black prop Carl Hayman play in the World Cup, despite his French club's willingness to release him.
The 31-year-old, rated by many as the world’s best tighthead prop, is ineligible to play for the All Blacks when New Zealand hosts rugby’s showcase tournament later this year because he does not play for a domestic team.
A report on Wednesday said the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) had been in secret talks with Hayman and his French club Toulon about waiving the rule so he could rejoin the All Blacks for the World Cup.
Under the deal, the NZRU would sign Hayman on a three-month contract covering the duration of the tournament, which runs from September 9 to October 23, the New Zealand Herald reported.
NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said there had been no such discussions and his organisation did not intend to change its eligibility criteria.
Tew said the NZRU tried to lure Hayman back to New Zealand last year but he opted to sign with Toulon and the matter ended there.
"We tried incredibly hard to try and bring Carl back to New Zealand so that he would be released to play for the All Blacks again, but we failed to do that," he told Radio Sport.
"He chose Toulon and that is what he has decided to do."
Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal said on Tuesday that he would have no problem releasing Hayman for the World Cup.
"It would not be a problem for me, especially as I don’t feel I have the right to stop a player playing for his country at the World Cup," he told AFP in France.
Boudjellal, who has financed the club through his comic book publishing business, said he had anticipated such a scenario when Toulon signed Hayman from Newcastle Falcons last year.
"We said then that if he was selected, we would free him.
"He can sign a three to four month contract with his federation and come back to Toulon for the final eight months of the season," he said.
Hayman was an integral part of the All Blacks side that lost to France in the 2007 quarter-finals and would be keen to have another chance to secure only the second World Cup title in New Zealand’s history.