The IRB Regulations Committee Panel hearing the Steven Shingler eligibility case has determined that the player is tied to Wales in accordance with IRB Regulation 8 as it stands and therefore is ineligible to represent another Union.
The Panel consisting of Peter Boyle (Ireland, Chairman) Giancarlo Dondi (Italy) and Tim Gresson (New Zealand) heard evidence from the player, his agent and the Scottish and Welsh Rugby Unions at a hearing in Dublin on February 27. The Scottish and Welsh members on the panel presumably recused themselves.
The Panel determined that, based on the relevant provisions of IRB Regulation 8, the relevant guidelines and the facts presented at the hearing, Shingler is captured for Wales in accordance with IRB Regulation 8. This decision is binding on the parties until it is endorsed or overturned by the IRB Council. Which suggests the case could be appealed one final time.
The SRU formally requested the IRB Regulations Committee to review the case in accordance with IRB Regulation 2 after an initial informal assessment by the IRB determined that the player appeared to be tied to Wales having represented the Under 20 team against the France Under 20 team during the 2011 Under 20 Six Nations. During 2011 both Wales and France officially designated their Under 20 team to be the next senior national team.
Currently under IRB Regulation 8 a player is tied to a country if he or she has played for the senior national fifteen-a-side national representative team or the next senior national representative team or the senior national representative Sevens team against opposition of the same designation. The national Under 20 team can be designated as the next senior national representative team under the Regulation. If not capped at senior level the player is still tied even if he qualifies elsewhere through residency.
It is the right of a Union to choose whatever team it wishes to be designated as its next senior national representative team. It is also the sole responsibility of a Union to ensure that players selected to play for the teams designated with IRB Regulation 8 are eligible to do so.
The Panel noted that, in accordance with IRB Regulation 8, playing in a designated capturing match was the key determining factor with regard to the player’s eligibility. In this respect the Panel accepted the evidence of the WRU that although Shingler had not signed the Union eligibility confirmation form he had been fully advised by the WRU that playing in the France Under 20 v Wales Under 20 match during the 2011 Under 20 Six Nations would capture him for Wales.
The Panel acknowledged that an ongoing review of the next senior national representative team under IRB Regulation 8 was launched in April 2011 in collaboration with all IRB Member Unions to determine a system that was appropriate. Which suggests they are implicitly acknowledging the current system is inappropriate.
It also noted the recommendation of the IRB Rugby and Regulations Committees, subsequent to this hearing, that the designation of the Under 20 side as the next senior national representative team should no longer be sustained. This issue will be considered by the IRB Council at its Special Meeting on May 15, 2012.
The Panel further recognised that the IRB Council will have made its determination on the recommendations of both Committees regarding the next senior national representative team review prior to its consideration of the Regulations Committee decision in the Shingler case. Importantly for Shingler, the IRB Council is able to endorse or overturn the decision of the Regulations Committee. It should also be noted that unless specifically stated by Council, changes to Laws and Regulations do not have retrospective application, and with the first two committees ruling against the SRU, time could be up.
In response, the SRU stated:
“Scottish Rugby notes the decision of the IRB Regulations Committee hearing the Steven Shingler eligibility case.
We remain fully supportive of Steven Shingler, a talented young rugby player, who has expressed his sincere and earnest wish to represent Scotland.
We await the full written decision of the IRB Regulations Committee and may comment further on receipt.”
I am sure Mr Shingler will take no great solace from being a ground-breaking test case in this regard, as it leaves him Welsh, with his determination to play for Scotland on record, while in future other players may get the decision he wanted while he is stuck in international limbo.