The Scotland medical team have provided an update following the team’s bruising encounter with Australia which saw them end the match with only two recognised back row forwards on the field.
Ryan Wilson suffered a laceration to his ankle in the fifth minute of the match which required medical attention at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. He re-joined the team after the match.
Lock Richie Gray underwent a head injury assessment (HIA) in the 12th minute and returned to the field. He must now complete the third part of the HIA process tomorrow (48-hours post-match) to be considered available for this Saturday’s Test match against Argentina in Edinburgh.
John Hardie suffered a concussion, as well as a knee and ankle sprain, in the 61st minute. He is now subject to the graduated return to play protocols for his head injury, as well as ongoing rehabilitation and medical management for his leg.
As a consequence of the injuries sustained in the game and the ongoing rehabilitation of back-row Josh Strauss, Scotland have added uncapped Edinburgh Rugby back-row Cornell Du Preez to the squad. The back-rower is equally at home on either flank or at number eight and has been a consistent performer for the capital club, scoring 13 tries in his 66 appearances. Born and schooled in Port Elizabeth, Du Preez is available for selection having qualified for his adopted country through residency.
It’s been nearly two years since this writer penned an article on World Rugby eligibility rules in the wake of Hugh Blake being called up to the Scotland squad. At the time Blake had never played pro-rugby in Scotland and so some of the concern was justified. However much of the rhetoric at the time also took on a more sinister tone that bordered, if not crossed the line, into outright xenophobia.
Blake went on to perform admirably in a Scotland shirt, although neither Alan Solomons or Gregor Townsend seemed to share Vern Cotter’s belief in his abilities. He got little game time for the capital side and spent part of his time at Glasgow in the backs. He soon found his way into the national Sevens side and was part of the team that went from strength to strength culminating in a famous win in London. Blake has since returned to New Zealand on loan to Bay of Plenty. However that agreement ended in October and there has been no word on his future from either Glasgow or Scotland.
The article on Hugh Blake nearly broke this site and it remains one of the most commented on articles we’ve had. It also led us to draw up a set of guidelines for comments, such was the ferocity of the debate. It is a debate that continues to rumble on and the news that South African born Cornell du Preez has been called up to the Scotland squad this week as cover for John Hardie and Ryan Wilson has reignited the flames once more.
Du Preez qualifies to play for Scotland under Regulation 8 of World Rugby’s eligibility rules having lived in the country for 36 consecutive months (3 years) immediately prior to playing. This “residency” criteria is perhaps the most controversial aspects of Regulation 8, although there are some who would want to see eligibility through the birthplace of a grandparent eliminated too.
The Scottish Rugby Union are open about their use Regulation 8 to boost the fairly shallow pool from which players are selected. But with the exception of Argentina all Tier 1 nations use various aspects of the rules to bolster their squads. The All Blacks have relied on draining talent from the Pacific Islands for years.
World Rugby are currently reviewing the regulations and there are good reasons to do so. Tier 2 nations, particularly the Pacific Islands, have long complained of clubs and countries with large piles of cash taking young men away to play rugby only to hang them out to dry when things don’t work out. Our former correspondant Jamie Lyall, interviewed rugby agent Shaun Longstaff earlier this year for the BBC who revealed he’d been approached by a number of clubs who’d discovered he was taking a trip to the Islands:
“‘Find us a freak’. Someone big and fast and powerful. And they want them cheap, because it is business, and they know if they go to the islands, where poverty is rife, you can pay very little really and get someone over who might come through very quickly.”
All the indications are that the residency criteria will be extended to five years. Not only does this take it beyond one World Cup cycle, but it brings it in line with the time it takes to become eligible to become a naturalised citizen in most countries. There is no word on whether the grandparent clause might be revoked.
Extending the period to five years does not necessarily stop countries from developing “project players” although it requires significantly more investment from both sides. Clubs and countries have to do what they can to keep a player long enough for the trigger to be met and players have to commit to living in one country for a significant period of their lives.
It is also unlikely that a change in the regulations will stop the xenophobia from sections of the media as well as some fans. This is a sports blog but that does not mean we shouldn’t call people out on this. By all means criticise the current World Rugby eligibility rules because of their damaging effect on Tier 2 nations.
By all means criticise the SRU’s plan to scout and recruit foreign players instead of putting that money back into youth development programs. We may not all agree on the rights and wrongs of those decisions but criticising the selection of a foreign born player who is currently perfectly entitled to play for this country and claiming that it somehow demeans the shirt takes us into dangerous waters.
We are a bastard nation formed from centuries of immigration. We should not seek to reduce the notion of what it is to be “Scottish” to some romanticised fiction that only exists in a Walter Scott novel. Tartan originated in China before making its way to central Europe and modern clan tartans have only existed since the 19th century. Bagpipes were invented in the Middle East. The modern kilt was invented by an English Quaker in the 1700s.
The Scottish national team should seek to represent what is great about modern Scotland. That includes immigrants who have chosen to make this country their home. Undermining their right to play in a Scotland jersey only seeks to undermine the great contribution other immigrants have made to this country’s past.
With Remembrance Sunday having just passed, one wonders whether the people who think the selection of Cornell du Preez demeans the jersey also believe that the foreign born soldiers who fought for this country in the past somehow sold the uniform short?
Comparing representing your country at sport with fighting for it in war perhaps seems ridiculous. But then again in the era of Trump and Farage, is opposition to foreign born players turning out for Scotland really that far removed from the “Ayrans only” policy instituted by all German athletics organisations in 1933?