Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Cornell Du Preez: The Return of Regulation 8

Cornell du Preez - pic © Al Ross/Novantae Photography
Cornell du Preez - pic © Al Ross/Novantae Photography

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?

47 Responses

  1. Excellent article Cammy. Some or our established rugby writers would do well to read this piece then take a long hard look at themselves.

  2. Excellent article.

    From a pragmatic point of view I’m bored of commenting on Scotland losing. If Cornell, Willem, Josh, John, Sean, Tim and the rest win us some games – maybe even silverware – the ones causing the ruckus will be celebrating with us and no mention of ‘oh but they aren’t as Scottish as me’

  3. “The All Blacks have relied on draining talent from the Pacific Islands for years.”

    This is a long-debunked myth Cammy. Of the 1133 men who have represented the All Blacks (in matches as well as tests – data from 2014), just 32 were born in the islands – Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and American Samoa. That number includes guys like Jerome Kaino who moved to NZ aged 4.

    The number of actual poaches can be counted on one hand (Joeli Vidiri comes to mind) but NZ seem to have acquired this reputation due to three factors 1) NZ-born Samoans like Stephen Bachop who represented Samoa in the 90s then NZ before the rule was introduced allowing players to represent only one country 2) the large scale immigration from the Islands into NZ over the last 30 years or so which has increased the number of players of PI heritage representing NZ, including some who were born in PI but raised in NZ 3) the recent trend for NZ schoolboys to play for Samoa/Tonga/Fiji at u-20 level and switch to NZ u-20s if they impress (see tier 2 rugby blog for details).

      1. I think Ireland offers the most egregious examples. CJ Stander and Tyler Bleyandall captained their countries at u-20 level, played one season out as professional players and then we scooped up by IRFU as project players. They didn’t even have time to fail to represent their own countries!

  4. I like this article, it is a much more balanced view on the subject than many I have read.

    As a 52 year old Scot, who has lived all bit his first 5 in England, I find some of the stuff spouted on this subject galling. I have always felt Scottish and my children are aware of their Scottish heritage as no doubt will theirs. It is not just about where you are born and live that gives you your identity.

    Living in England and knowing plenty of English fans, I can assure you that this business does not cause nearly as much angst to the English fans as it seems to mean to us. The French, Irish and Welsh don’t seem to have any great issues with it either.

    If people qualify by the rules and are good enough to be selected then we should be behind them 100%. We just play the same rules as everyone else. If the rules change and there are good and bad points about that, then I will respect the new rules.

    What I would say though is that 3 years is a long time in the life of a professional rugby player, who is always one game away from the end of their career.

    We have actually had very few players qualifying by residence. Strauss, Nel and now CDP have all served their time in Scottish rugby and played their hearts out for their clubs. They are popular players who the fans love, they are not mercenaries in any shape or form.

    I for one will be very pleased to see CDP make his debut this weekend, he deserves it. If I do think that Bradbury should be playing in his place that is for a very different reason than the fact that he was not born Scottish.

    1. Agree with this. Ireland in particular call up players based on residency far more than we do, and they have four pro teams through which to develop players rather than our two. Everyone else is happy to use the rules to make sure they can pick from as wide a pool of players as possible, we’d be mad not to do the same.
      If we picked our team along the rigid criteria of ‘Scottishness’ that some writers seem to insist on, we wouldn’t have much of a side. As long as Cornell is eligible and wants to give his all for us, we should be happy to have him.

  5. Excellent piece, and I’m looking forward to Du Preez, and his delightful and mildly frightening beard, tackling hard and carrying well.

  6. Your article is excellent. Immigration and emigration are now pandemic and the simple criteria which now enable a committed immigrant to play for the country which he has adopted by residence — and which has adopted him — deserve to be maintained. As history proves, one’s birth in a country doesn’t guarantee one’s loyalty to it; incomers often display more loyalty than natives. Remember that the very name “Scotland” derives from Irish immigrants — the Scotti.
    P.S. “Criteria” is the PLURAL form of “criterion”.

  7. Cant wait to see Cornell playing this weekend, for many reasons. His stunning and intimidating beard (im not jealous), his awesome name, his bulk and ball carrying impact and his well rounded skill set, he will fit right in on the international stage im sure.
    I do feel Bradbury on form deserves to be in there ahead of him at the moment, and disagree with the mantra that he is still too young for international rugby, but I’ll be 100% behind du Preez as I’m sure the vast majority of Scots will be.
    The question is where he plays. The starting back row I reckon will be Watson, du Preez and Barclay with Harley on the bench probably unless Strauss returns or Hardie or Wilson somehow get over their injuries much quicker than expected. Barclay was unbelievable against Australia playing at 8, it seemed like he had that Pocock free role to get into as many rucks as he liked and disrupt it. I dont know if him playing at 6 will limit his opportunities to get stuck into every second ruck or not, but du Preez obviously offers more impact carrying from 8. I personally see du Preez as a bigger version of Wilson, with a slightly lower work rate but a slightly higher level of skill as well as bulk and ball carrying, so playing him at 6 would be perfectly fine with me.

  8. Agree with FiferMitchell,
    Harley too slow to be a international backrow, Bradbury on bench.

    Spot on re Du Preez / Wilson.

    Du Preez has tremendous hands for a backrow & I am looking forward ro seeing him bring Jones, Hogg, Seymour into the game

    1. Agreed, while the back row on Saturday were excellent, with two mobile, breakdown-centric flankers we need a hole-puncher (preferably with some ball-skills) at Number 8. Strauss, CdP, there’s a reason South Africans fit this mould quite well! Bradbury looks like an excellent home-grown fit too, if perhaps a little soon, the bench would be an option and I’m sure Toony would thank Cotter for it this time next year…

      1. I was massively impressed with Barclay, I thought his time had passed to be honest but he was doing all the things I thought he couldn’t, carrying ball into the heart of Australia’s defence, breaking the gainline and knocking back opponents in the tackle. But CdP definitely makes the back row look more balanced, although I’d have no fear about chucking Bradbury in either. I’d rather see him debut in November than in the 6N and there is little doubt he’ll be a prominent player come the world cup.

      2. Absolutely agree about Barclay. Every time he plays, in whatever position, he makes the decision a while back to not to select him even for the squad look more and more daft.
        Don’t forget Adam Ashe for the hard yards – he’s really been held back by injury but is still a real prospect. Better than Wilson imho. And I’m just so impressed by Bradbury. Perhaps a real quality selection problem emerging for Toonie across the back row ? :)

  9. Du Preez has worked for this and deserves his opportunity. As a ‘project player’ I suppose the paymasters have to justify the expense to the some extent (compared to Bradbury). For those suggesting Bradbury should be in now. He’s only had half a dozen games and showed well enough, but he is raw. CDP has been the best Edinburgh player for at least 2 of the last 3 seasons, when he’s been injury free.
    No competition in my view. Given the attrition rate on back rows, Bradbury might find himself being capped sooner than expected anyway.
    A back row of Barclay, CDP and Watson looks very good to me. CDP is the best running no 8 we’ve had since John Beattie/Eric Peters were at their peak.
    Any issues in the front row will be exposed against Argentina. Dell and Fagerson had fair games, but under continual pressure against Ossies. It will be interesting to see how they perform this weekend.
    I’d have Gordon Reid ahead of Alan Dell any day. Scrum and loose.

  10. As a wee note on eligibility, I think if you come over to a country and play and by dint of that become eligible to play….with it appearing not to be on your agenda then fine. The only example that irks me is what i believe Nathan Hughes did, he was approached (as i understand)before last years world cup by fiji (his home nation?) to play and turned them down to wait to be eligible for england… something about that just bothers me a little.

    On the bradbury issue,.. so what if he’s a wee bit raw.If you’re deemed good enough then you are old enough. He’s 22? Isa, the Pumas no8 isn’t much older I understand and he’s playing away quite happily.

    1. Not forgetting Maro Itoje was the same age as Bradbury is now when he became an England regular.

      I’ve watched Edinburgh a fair bit, and have never failed to be impressed by Magnus Bradbury, and I think he deserves at least a bench place during the AIs

      Speaking of “if you’re good enough you’re old enough”, at what point to we start to seriously consider Blair Kinghorn for the squad?

      But back on topic, I have no issue at all with CdP or Nel or Strauss playing for Scotland. They have served their time, so to speak, and the latter two have never given anything less than 100% for Scotland, but I do feel that it is right that the residency rule is being changed to 5 years.

      1. Bradbury is already with the squad. Hughes and Price were on the bench on Sat and they were ‘training with’ the squad the same as Bradbury.

  11. Do the project players require to gain British nationality as part of their eligibility? If not then how can you argue that someone should play for the Scottish national team when they are the holder of a foreign passport? The current Reg 8 rules are a barrier to nations developing players through their youth systems. Three years is way too short, and the sooner it changes to five the better. People are being misty eyed about Du Preez’s motivations. He is a professional rugby player and as such will play for the highest bidder. If he had the ability to become a Springbok he would have stayed in South Africa. If it was still the amateur era does anyone believe he would have been anywhere near Scotland except as part of a visiting international side.
    Blake falls into a different category. How the author can assert that he played well in a Scotland shirt is a mystery to me as, as far as I can ascertain, he has the grand total of one cap! If he had any ability he would be playing for Edinburgh or Glasgow and be in the international squad. Sounds like a random throw of the dice by the recruitment team in the hope they would unearth an international player, without due diligence. A reporter worth their salt should speak to the player and get his side of the story, including the promises made by the SRU.
    Again having a granny or grandad born in Scotland should not qualify someone to parachute in to the national team.

    1. In Blake’s one appearance he did play quite well tbf.

      Also, it isn’t the amateur era. Ireland, Wales, France, England and Italy all exploit the current rules, if we don’t we’ll fall even further behind.

      I didn’t see many Irish fans complaining where their players that beat New Zealand came from. And if Du Preez scores the winner at Twickenham against England in the Spring then I doubt we’ll complain either.

    2. The citizenship point is interesting – on the other side of the argument, can you deny a citizen the opportunity to represent their country at sport?

      it is quite possible to get citizenship in 2-3 years in many nations

      1. Citizenship is very variable from country to country and as such is probably not a good marker to decide these things.

        Some countries like Ireland and Italy, citizenship can be claimed purely on a blood line. You do not necessarily even have to live there. The UK is more complex, requiring residency and a need to prove your Britishness (whatever that is).

        Residence is probably far fairer, especially as we already allow descent up to a grandparent anyway.

  12. Obviously this is a very complex issue….some salient points:

    1 – I think it is interesting that this is being strongly driven by an Argentinian…the top-tier country being the least able to benefit under the current rules due to their weak Pro scene.

    2 – Changing it to 5 years might not greatly help the Pacific Islands — I don’t have any proof, but most Pacific Island talent seems to be developed in Nz/Aus, at least through the teen years if not from birth…

    3 – Also 5 years will just lead to earlier “talent identification” programs by the richer unions — to the detriment of those less able to take the risk.

    SO in short the main difference would be, relatively, a stronger top-tier, a weaker mid-tier, and much the same in the lower tiers.

    1. I think the first point strengthens the argument to extend the residency rules. The current arrangement benefits richer countries, and it benefits them more the greater number of clubs they have. Ireland hatched the project player plan specifically to keep up with bigger countries at a time that England were capping residency players hand over fist (Hape, Botha, Flutey etc.). It always has a negative impact on countries without strong pro scenes or without the ability to pay test players big bonuses. Of course Argentina object – they aren’t competing on a level playing field. Regarding clubs poaching younger ayers from the islands this is already happening, Sean long staff recently spoke about it in an interview. The answer is better regulation of the market, not accepting that the best player should end up representing other teams so they can earn a decent living.

  13. Superficially at least, project players do seem to offer the less populous and less wealthy countries a better chance of deepening their talent pools…….but, as ever, money talks. The Vunipola brothers, Billy (126 kg) and Mako (130 kg) could not be described as project players, since their parents emigrated to the UK when they were still children. However, scholarships respectively to Harrow and Millfield Schools cemented their allegiance to England. England’s strong economy compared with the other Home Nations will always act as a magnet for Pacific Island emigres with sons DNA-programmed to be rugby players. And now a Fijian enters the fray for England, Nathan Hughes (125 kg), who IS a project player. How can Scotland, Wales and even Ireland compete?
    The weights I quote are significant — only Richie Gray at 126 kg can compare.

    1. You’re referring to the less populous and less wealthy countries as Ireland, Scotland and Wales. But we are tier 1 countries with domestic professional sides. We are wealthy in rugby terms and project players advantage us in comparison to tier 2 sides. Not to mention the fact that France and England have probably capped more players qualified through residency than any other sides since professionalism began.

      Whilst the rules are what they are, we should take advantage of them – but a 5 year residency period is the least World Rugby should be considering.

    1. I think he broke his ankle just before his loan expired and he was due to return.

      I think he shows a lot of promise and it would be a shame to lose his talent to Scottish rugby.

  14. FF, you’re right of course about our wealth in rugby terms……but within tier 1 countries there are huge differentials in respect of populations…..and the position is further exacerbated by the fact that the relative rugby-playing populations often don’t follow the ratios of total populations. For example, the ratio of England’s population to Scotland’s is approx. 10:1; but with reference to rugby-playing numbers the ratio becomes something in the region of 20:1 or worse (it’s difficult to obtain exact figures).
    I was also making the point that in general economic terms England is wealthier than the “Celtic” nations and therefore more likely to attract immigrants like the Vunipolas from the rugby-loving South Sea islands — which suggests that the odds pitted against us will become ever greater in future.
    We are doing truly magnificently despite these disadvantages and I’m hugely encouraged by our emerging home-grown talent regardless of immigrant or project players!

  15. I suppose ways will be found to maximise gain from whatever rules are put in place…and the rich have more resources to do so…to me more stringent rules will in the end generate more inequality rather than less between the top end of town and the rest.

    What’s probably needed is somehow to develop more pro opportunities “at home”. E.g. Ben Ryan talking up a Fiji-based Super rugby team…maybe a pipe dream though.

    1. England players earn £1m per year reportedly. The pull factor will still be there regardless of Fijian super team – though that would be big step forward.

  16. I believe a more progressive regime for residency rules is the best way forward.
    6 years for under 21s, 5 years for 21-24, 4 years for those up to 27 years old, 3 years for those under 30 and just two years for those 30 and over.
    This would protect the tier2 nations being stripped of talent as the investment in youngsters would have to be double what it currently is, but would allow professional rugby players the ability to play at the highest level for their adopted country.
    I have no problem with Cornell, or any rugby player who wants to play for their adopted country. As long as the rules are not broken then I believe every one of them will play with their heart.
    I do think that the tier2 nations should be protected though. Remember how good Romania were before France poached all their players? Do we want the likes of Fiji to go the same way? Course not.

  17. Where is the discussion of conscience in all of this? I was born in England to a Scottish father (siblings born in Scotland) but have lived south of the border all my life. If I was the best rugby player (or footballer or anything else for that matter) in the WORLD I would have played for Scotland. There is no hierarchy. This isn’t picking University and having 6 choices. “Oh, didn’t quite make the grade for Edinburgh or Durham, so I’m off to Leeds instead”. Why do players HAVE to play international rugby? If you are not good enough for your country then so be it. Even stranger the other way – ‘too good’ for your country – if anything standing out makes you more of a cult figure (a la Gareth Bale). I’m not suggesting that CDP, Nel, Hardie etc do not wish to play for Scotland in their heart of hearts (I honestly don’t know). Perhaps living in Edinburgh for three years is enough to feel like representing Scotland. The question (morally) that these players need to ask themselves (prior to representing Scotland) is “If South Africa/New Zealand called me up to the squad tomorrow, would I decline in favour of Scotland”. If the answer is yes, great. If it is no, then so be it. Be honest with yourselves. International rugby is not compulsory. That said, in the absence of this information I of course give them the benefit of the doubt and support them!

    1. I don’t believe what Scotland or our foreign players have done is as insidious as say the poaching of Pacific Islands talent. Unfortunately we have ‘project’ players or grand parent players who are not going to get as much (if any) intl game time for their country of birth and thus because of some connection they then choose to play in / for Scotland – the question of morality I think is limited to the SRU in this case (if the rules permit it and they are happy to use it then its up to them – but by extension up to us as we can vote with our feet), whereas poaching young islands talent has moral concerns for both union and the players themselves – hence far more concerning.

      To your point intl rugby is still the absolute pinnacle of the game thus they want to test themselves and play in this environment. The added aside is that it pays better and will usually lead to getting opportunities to gain more lucrative professional club contracts – win/win.

      1. Unfortunately I think your last sentence is most salient, much of this is about money. Perhaps more understandable with Pacific Islanders but I would still (perhaps naively) hope that players would be content with the £££ and status of playing for say, a top French club, whilst still proudly representing Samoa/Fiji (as many do). In football we see players ‘moving down’ in order to find international football but not so much the other way. The difference is the amount of money in club football (and it being the pinnacle rather than international football) so you could be quite content never playing in a World Cup for Estonia if you regularly compete in/win the Champions League with Barcelona.

  18. Really enjoyed the article Cammy. If the rules are there Scotland should use them. Personally think 3 years residency is about the right length of time, if it was 5 years presumably the NZ and Aus will just entice Islanders over at a younger age. I am certainly in favour of the Granny Rule. I am Scottish, married to an Irish Woman both my girls born in Scotland (Greenock), if in the future any Grandson of mine was good enough to plan international rugby, I would prefer Scotland.

  19. Base the residency on team ranking to define the length of prior service. It would help to put off the higher performing teams from gaining too quickly on imports. The rankings would be calculated on RWC years with the player entered into the system by a union, this then defines their fixed service.

    Say 5 years for Top 5 ranked nations so they would always have to skip a RWC.
    4 years then for remainder of Top 10.
    Then down to 3 years for all remaining lower tier nations.

    That’s just an example but would possibly discourage the quick wins being taken just now with players.

    As an aside, make sure they’re paying all their taxes too!!

  20. Personally, I think we’re farting in the wind if we think anything is going to change whilst the current set up serves the needs of the English and French unions, who continue to tighten the financial strangle hold they have on the rest of the rugby playing world.

    World Rugby, or perhaps more realistically other Unions, have to have the balls to stand up against RFU and EFR to try and address the imbalance of resources and income before it’s too late and we see this game we love wither and die. If gate income from international rugby could be pooled and split more evenly, with flat rate of remuneration for players, then wouldn’t we see playing for Fiji for example (to use the Nathan Hughes scenario) be just as attractive (arguably more so) than playing for England?

    Is it really fair that England insist on keeping all income (bar a token amount) for the game against Fiji, using the argument that Fiji would be entitled to keep all income were England to play in Suva? Is it right that we see our finest players, being subjected to a punishing lions schedule simply to try and fill a gap in the coffers of NZRFU?

  21. If a player has a residential qualification, I think he should lose it if he chooses to move to another country, eg Tim Visser.

    1. They lose it if they move without being capped. So if they lived in Scotland for 5 years without being capped, then moved to Wales, their qualification for Scotland expires.

      I don’t think you can really rescind somebody’s qualification to play for the country once they’re tied though – if a player moves to seek a new challenge/revive their career why should they be banned from playing for the country they have, at the end of the day, committed to? If they “lose” their qualification by moving would we then allow them to qualify for another country 3 years down the line?

  22. Grandfather rules should stay. It’s close enough that you’re likely to have had a living connection – for example, you have Scottish grandparents. They were in the military and your parents were born in Germany. Your parents emigrated to New Zealand. You are brought up proud of your Scottish heritage, to parents who likely don’t consider themselves German, in a country where you have no connection to except being born there.

    Now, you may well grow up and consider yourself a Kiwi. After all you were born there and brought up there. You might consider yourself a Scot given your upbringing. Unlikely, but you may consider yourself to be a German. IMHO any of those 3 should be allowable for representative sport.

    I don’t really mind who plays for Scotland so long as they have a tangible connection to the country, are good enough, and give their all. I say that being Scottish born (lived here my whole life), born to English parents, 3 English & 1 (possibly) Scottish grandparent.

    Setting different qualification periods for different teams strikes me as problematic. If you say top 10= 5years, what do you do when a team drops out of the top 10? Is the criteria set at the time the residency starts, or when the player qualifies?

    What could possibly be done is if a dual-qualified player is capped less than a certain number of times (say 10) by a “Tier 1” country and their second country is “Tier 2” or lower then if they go a number of years without being capped, they can revert to their second nationality. BUT this could only be done where their qualification for the second country is on a stronger basis than the first. To do that would need some sort of hierarchy – eg birth > parental > schooling > grandparent > residency. That way someone “poached” by a top team and capped once, could then still play for the country of their birth if they wanted to once it became clear they were only capped to tie them.

    Not sure about that idea – just floating it and thinking it up as I type so apologies if verbal diarrhoea!

    1. And this takes us back to my point about Uni choices – there should be no hierarchy for international rugby!
      Not really a fan of birthplace being used at any level. One of my brothers was born in France but he is in no way French! If it were birthplace alone, of myself and two brothers (same parents for clarity and same upbringing in England) we’d represent France, Scotland and England – one each. For the record, we’re all Scottish! If the grandparent rule were removed, my children could not represent Scotland but my brother’s children could, if only for the fact that my parents hadn’t yet moved out of Scotland when he was born.
      Passports is probably the clearest way of identifying nationality when in any doubt. If you move to a country at any age you could become naturalised (so doesn’t discriminate those moving to Scotland) and for those that have emigrated I would have thought you could still obtain a British passport based on your parents having one? Obviously passports doesn’t help Home Nations distinction though (IndyRef2 aside). It ultimately comes back to being honest with yourself!

  23. Do the RFU have project players or does England have a raft of wealthy clubs which trawl the globe looking for players? With the English rule of paying clubs more for English qualified players this means (and I have nothing to back this up) that it is likely the clubs will keep players from playing for other countries as they stand to gain. And the player will probably receive more from the club if they are England qualified. If they are then good enough to get selected for England then you can see why they would do it for a further payday and higher profile.

    Perhaps the answer is that there is a limit for how many players qualified through residency a country can include in their wider training squad?

  24. Nationalism of any sort is a bit shaky when you think about it.

    Better just to enjoy the game and not stress too much about where the lines are drawn.

  25. Excellent article – well written, thought provoking. And manages to hold sport up as a mirror to “real life” too. Not only sportsmen deserve the opportunity to perform at the highest level if qualified to do so (by whatever means) without fear of discrimination or persecution. This should apply in all walks of life.

    As for the residency rules – they are a mess, undoubtedly. Would increasing the time to 5 years help? Possibly, but then you have to consider that there at least 2 French clubs with academies for school aged children in Fiji, so players will simply be identified earlier, and move abroad at a younger age. Given the huge imbalance in living standards between the Pacific Islands and Tier 1 nations this is hardly surprising, and who are we to deny any person the right to earn a wage which will improve the lives of themselves and their families, wherever in the world that should be.

    Again, “real life” matches sport in this respect for me.

    Whatever happens World Rugby have a responsibility to grow the game, and that means looking after the traditional Tier 2 nations such as Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, not just chasing the money in relative newcomers such as the US and Japan.

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