SYDNEY - Cricket Australia cleared the way on Friday for prolific Middlesex opener Sam Robson to play in the Sheffield Shield, as they bid to keep him out of the clutches of oldest rivals England.

CA announced changes to the rule governing the eligibility of Australian players with dual passports to play in more than one (ICC full-member) domestic competition, particularly England. Sydney-born Robson, 24, is the leading run-scorer in the English County Championship this season with Middlesex and the focus of an "Ashes-themed tug of war", according to reports.

Robson, whose mother hails from the English city of Nottingham, previously could not be chosen for New South Wales as a domestic player because although born in Australia, he played county cricket on a British passport. CA's rule change has effectively freed Robson from having to choose between NSW and Middlesex, allowing him to represent both as England and Australia compete for his international loyalties.

"A number of Australian-qualified cricketers currently playing in ECB competitions in particular are doing so as a local player, meaning if they play in Australia during the summer they need to do so as an overseas player to retain their ECB eligibility," CA said in a statement. "However, CA's current overseas player definition prevents someone born in Australia, or holding a valid Australian passport, from qualifying to play here as an overseas player. "Changes approved (on Friday) will ensure state associations and Big Bash League (T20) teams will be able recruit Australian players without them having to give up their eligibility to play overseas as a local player.

It will remove the burden on these players to choose which domestic competition to play in."

There is significant interest from NSW where Robson's father, Jim, runs the indoor centre at the Sydney Cricket Ground, and where the batsman often trains when playing Sydney club cricket during the southern summer. Fairfax Media said CA's changes would involve Robson trying out for a call-up to the NSW state side for the first Sheffield Shield match of the summer.

He could then play against Alastair Cook's Ashes-winning team, with NSW scheduled to take on England in a four-day match in Sydney from November 13, a week before the first Test in Brisbane. That could even put him in the frame for an Ashes call-up against England, if he sought to play for Australia.

Robson has scored 993 runs and three hundreds in the County Championship this season at an average of 62.06. CA's decision comes after it was announced he had qualified to represent England on residency grounds a year earlier than expected, Fairfax said. Other players who had given up their first-class careers in Australia to play as locals in England are now eligible to play in the Sheffield Shield, limited overs and BBL competitions. These include West Australian seam bowler Michael Hogan, NSW batsman Phil Jaques and Queensland teenager Sam Hain.