Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


The Project Project

Josh Strauss - pic © Al Ross/Novantae Photography
Josh Strauss - pic © Al Ross/Novantae Photography

With news announced in recent months that Augustin Pichot and Bill Beaumont are determined to revisit the rules for international qualification, talk of “Project Players” is never far from the surface of international team selection news. Even if they don’t do anything about it soon, you can bet there will be plenty of chatter around Lions selection time – where residency qualified players like WP Nel and CJ Stander could be in contention.

The player exodus from South Africa could continue with news from over there that racial quotas may be introduced for rugby and other sports. This would create even more of a logjam at Springbok or nearly-Springbok level.

France and England are both already looking into independent systems in line with a 5 year qualification period or passport based system, but Scotland and Ireland are understood to be less supportive of a change in the system, given the smaller player resources they have.

This week we also saw our very own Josh Strauss admit the obvious after signing for Sale – he really wanted a big money contract in the Premiership, but stayed a second season with Glasgow in order to play with Scotland in the 2015 World Cup:

Since coming to the UK I always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to play in the Premiership, which is a highly rated competition by players in South Africa. I signed for Glasgow and needed to sign for a second term in order to qualify to play for the national side.

It’s all very, well, professional, and not very romantic.

Without wishing to come over all Donald Trump and start stopping folk at the border, we had a look into it.

We decided to have a look: what would the Scotland team look like if a) qualification through residency was abolished completely and b) only parents counted for qualification, not grandparents?

Could Scotland still field a credible side?

Previous caps are ignored – which would be unlikely to be the case if World Rugby did actually clamp down on residency. In short, we’ve been harsher than any likely revisions of the laws would be.

What it means is what you’d expect: project players are out. For a team whose high-profile players are often lambasted as “parachuted in” or mostly foreigners, it’s actually not the case. Our acknowledged area of weakness is tighthead which is why WP was recruited, but otherwise the team we would have available isn’t a million miles away from the team we’d pick anyway.

And here it is:

Stuart Hogg (b. Melrose)
Tommy Seymour (m)
Huw Jones (b. Edinburgh)
Alex Dunbar (b. Dumfries)
Rory Hughes (b. Glasgow)
Finn Russell (b. Stirling)
Ali Price (m)
Alasdair Dickinson (b. Dundee)
Fraser Brown (b. Edinburgh)
Zander Fagerson (b. Perth)
Richie Gray (b. Rutherglen)
Jonny Gray (b. Rutherglen)
Magnus Bradbury (b. Glasgow)
John Barclay (m,f)
Dave Denton (m)


Ross Ford (b. Edinburgh)
Gordon Reid (b. Irvine)
Moray Low (b. Torphins)
Grant Gilchrist (b. Stirling)
Adam Ashe (b. Glasgow)
Greig Laidlaw (b. Edinburgh)
Duncan Weir (b. Glasgow)
Duncan Taylor (m,f)

m = Scottish mother, f = Scottish father, b = born.

Also available using this system: Rory Sutherland, Jon Welsh, Stuart McInally, Ben Toolis (yup), Rob Harley (we think), Matt Scott, Pete Horne, Henry Pyrgos, Mark Bennett, Damien Hoyland and plenty more. And yes, Roddy Grant would still have been eligible in this system!

Out: Sean Maitland, John Hardie, Hamish Watson, Tim Swinson, Ryan Wilson, Allan Dell, Simon Berghan (all grandparents), Tim Visser, Josh Strauss, WP Nel, Cornell du Preez (all residency)

The big miss based on current form is of course Hamish “Pinball” Watson, with Nel a close second but we’ll never know what difference he might have made to this year’s Six Nations. The loss of Visser and Maitland would leave us short on the wing, but in the next 2-3 years we have plenty of young talent coming through (Darcy Graham, Robbie Nairn etc).

I believe that the Project Project is being used as a stopgap measure; the SRU has recognised skill deficiencies in certain areas and while they would never admit it publicly, have been the slowest home nation to catch up to professionalism and tried to find a way to stay competitive with limited resources in the mean time.

The main issue facing our youngsters in Scotland is game time – can you upskill a promising under 18s or u20s player to test match level in 3-4 years when you could bring in one who may have had far more experience at the high intensity of the NPC or Currie Cup, and perhaps a winning rugby culture, over the early stages of their career? Zander Fagerson suggests you can, but there are plenty other who haven’t made it.

With academy and exiles structures now in place (working to whatever the rules may be) and the trickle of promising talent coming through the ranks turning into a babbling brook, the signs are that skills are being developed early to make our young players ready to play at the top level earlier.

Success for the national team is only going to encourage Scottish youngsters and widen the pool to choose from. But it still goes through a very narrow funnel at the top end of the game in Scotland.

Even without a change in the rules, what we can hope for is a reduction in the need for players who qualify only on residency, but there will always be a place for the Vissers and Nels of the world until World Rugby does something to make Fijians want to play for Fiji, bankrupt all the French clubs, fix South African selection policies or force Richie McCaw to retire.

Ah well, one out of four ain’t bad…

Additional reporting: Gav Harper

52 Responses

  1. Interesting outlook but I cannot see them ever changing the grandparent rule. That’s been in place for ever.
    World Rugby has to look at what they want to achieve with any changes, and I believe it should be to reduce the effect of poaching other nations’ players (eg the Pacific Islands or SA). However this should not be to the detriment of expanding the number of countries able to compete effectively (eg Japan, USA, Canada, Spain, Germany).
    I think increasing the residency rule to 5 years is sensible, but perhaps reduce this to 4 years if the player is over 25 and 3 years if over 27. This will allow some of the second tier nations to utilise experienced players.
    Interestingly, even if they do increase the minimum to 5 years WP Nel would still qualify. OK we wouldn’t have had him at the World Cup but at least he wouldn’t be crock now.

      1. WR can’t amend the period retrospectively – one example trip to court to show a player had already started qualification based on the 3 years would rule that illegal. So anyone who can demonstrate they have already started a residency qualification would be treated under the current three years. From the day WR introduce 5 years, then anyone starting would be based on 5 years. I absolutely approve of 5 years – the sooner it starts the better

  2. I’m sure it’s fantasy land but a ‘quota’ system based on the number of professional teams in each country (or some variant!) might be an additional benefit to smaller/ emerging nations.
    Hugely encouraged by your native born (17 of23) team.

  3. So the project player issue that people get so worked up about is, certainly from Scotland’s perspective, massively overblown.

    It is only really Nel and Strauss that we are talking about and both of them have given 5 years of unstinting service to Scottish club rugby and are thoroughly deserving of their caps.

    We don’t know the full story about Josh Strauss leaving Glasgow and I resent the implication that he did this in a mercenary fashion, which came about from a poorly worded press release. All indications are that Glasgow did not want to renew his contract and that is why he is leaving.

    I understand the reasons for that, the team is out of balance with so many current internationals being away at a time and some of the younger stars warranted a pay rise. Scottish teams exist on a limited budget and hard decisions have to be made. In an ideal world you would never wish players like JS and FS to go but that is the reality of professional sport. Josh, having given the best years of his career to Glasgow and Scotland has now got a good three year contract to see him into retirement. He deserves it.

    Scotland have not capped residency qualified players will nilly. The fact that CDP has not been capped shows that and he was considered by many as a shoe in particularly with a potential extension of the period coming up. He has not been capped though as he has not been playing well enough, which is how it should be. He may get there in the end if he can find his form or he may not. Either way, he as well has given a lot of great service to his Scottish club and would deserve the honour should it come his way.

    I am not particularly bothered about the current residence qualification period, three years can be a long time in the life of a professional rugby player when you can be one game away from a career ending injury. Similarly I can live with them if they are extended. What I can’t abide is the insinuation that these players are lesser players because of the way they have qualified. In my opinion they have been very proud to represent Scotland and thoroughly deserve to do so.

    1. Outstanding post G, some of the reactions on blogs, social media and comments pages to the Sale press release re Strauss were such a shame given how much he’s done for Glasgow over the past few years. Of course he’ll be missed, but we’re getting absolutely hammered during International windows and something needs to be done to address that.

    2. Not sure why Visser isn’t mentioned as a project guy who has made a difference, I’d say he’s done more than Strauss and clearly also cares a lot.

  4. I think extending the residency rule to 5 years is fair enough, World Rugby will also allow any players already capped under the three year rule to remain eligible I’m sure. It’s not as if the Dublin-based organisation are going to deprive Ireland of their best player!

    The granny rule will also stay in place, and I feel it’s morally just. Some countries, particularly Scotland and Ireland, have had a history of huge emigration (without getting too political, often due to reasons not in their sole control) leading to a smaller population, and so pool of players, than would otherwise be expected. We should be allowed to tap into our diasporas (diasporae?).

    1. The grandparent rule is a bit of a gray area. I was born in England but have supported Scotland my whole life as well as living a third of my life there, where the whole of my family now live. I now live in London and I’ll take my son on my annual pilgrimage to Murrayfield when he is old enough to care. He’ll be eligible to play for Scotland and Ireland through grandparents, England, Wales, Switzerland and Iraq through parents, and England through birth. People’s identities are complicated and when my son chooses to represent Scotland at rugby, I would object if people felt he was a ‘plastic’ Scot as I’ve heard online commenters refer to Hamish Watson. I understand when people think it is cheap when guys like Thomas Waldrom discover they had an English granny they never knew about, but many people with a grandparent connection will have a real affinity with the country and it’ll be part of their identity.

      1. Sorry FF but could you explain the matter of eligibility to play for 4 countries gained from your son’s parents.

        World Rugby’s Regulation Eight concerns players’ eligibility to play for national representative teams. It states that a player may only play for a country’s senior XV (or their designated second team or sevens side) if they were born in the country, one of their parents or grandparents was born in the country, or they have lived in the country for 36 consecutive months.

      2. I like riddles…ok – so you’re born in England, and lets assume for arguments sake that your son was also born there, so he qualifies to play for England. You claim he is also eligible to play for Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Switzerland and Iraq….so I’ll hazard a guess that one of your parent is Scottish, and the other Irish? Which means I assume that his Mum must have been born in either Wales, Switzerland or Iraq?? I think I’ll plump for a Welsh Mum, with a Swiss Grandpa and Iraqi Granny – am I close???? Man alive – what a great cultural melting pot..forget rugby, that kid could be general secretary of the UN.

      3. He has grandparents born in Ireland, Scotland, England. Parents born in England and Wales. But one of his parents was adopted so he also has extra grandparents with more exotic birthplaces. TBH not sure how that works but as rugby is not popular in either place probably moot.

        In any case, he has a big extended family and not one of them supports England so if he goes down that route he better get a thick skin :)

  5. At last a reasoned analysis of the qualification issue. It would be interesting for anyone with plenty of time to compare the current situation with previous years. The reliance, indeed dependency, on project players has eased given something that hasn’t been commented on, improvements in the identification of young players and their transitioning into professional rugby. Something that the SRU should be credited with, albeit only a decade or so behind other countries.
    My own view is that the 5 year residency should be applied for Tier 1 nations, with a lower limit to assist Tier 2 nations raise standards.
    Children of a parent born in Scotland should continue to be eligible for selection.
    I side with those opposed to grandparenthood being a criteria, on the grounds that this is too tenuous a connection. The Welsh and Scottish ‘grannygate’ debacles still leave a nasty taste in the mouth with the respective national bodies failing to conduct due process in checking on eligibility. If a player is committed to play for Scotland then he can qualify via the residency rule.

    1. I’m not sure how you’d define a Tier 1 nation as opposed to Tier 2. World rankings? They change all the time. You could define Tier1 as those in the RC or 6N but Italy and, to a lesser extent Argentina, might feel that’s a little unfair – in my opinion rightly – after the other Tier1 nations have had their fill.
      It has to be one rule for all nations.
      I also think that the grandparent rule will come to benefit the smaller nations, with the next generation. For example, the Vunipola’s children would be eligible to play for Tonga, which would close the circle. Of course, they would also be able to play for England. Or even New Zealand (Mako’s kids) or Australia (Billy’s kids).

  6. Agree with the consensus, the Granny fae Glasgow rule should stay, due to I think the very good point Doddies trews makes above. I wouldn’t be bothered if the residency rule is extended to 5 years. It shows that we haven’t extracted the urine with it, our 3 current guys; Nel, Visser and Strauss I think all rightfully deserve their place in the squad due to long service for their clubs and they all seem to be very proud to be playing for Scotland, prouder than some of our homegrown lot have seemed at times!

    Some teams have been taking it too far though, don’t really know what to do about it though, as Rory said until you make Fijians want to play for Fiji then you are always going to have them look elsewhere.

    1. That is way to simplistic. I am sure lots of the Fijian players who play for other countries would very much like to play for Fiji. It is a poor country though and they probably see their main priority as being able to provide for their families. These are often extended families, indeed whole villages and a lot of the money they earn gets channelled back to the Islands.

      It is very easy for us to make judgements about this sitting in our world, but patriotism does not put food on the table. It often costs the Pacific Island players money from their own pockets to play for their countries and this is meant to be professional sport.

      I am not actually convinced changing the rules from 3 to 5 years will make a great difference to getting players to commit to playing for Fiji. It just may take more of them completely out to the international game and make them concentrate on getting better club contracts. They may also move earlier and be prepare to stay longer to achieve their aims.

      You cannot blame people for trying to maximise their incomes, when for them, so much may depend upon it.

  7. Between 20% and 25% of Scots born people live outside Scotland. No other nation has this problem.

    The SRU must fight any changes to the granny rule tooth and nail.

    Residency qualification being abolished would actually help us. The only player who has made a consistent contribution under residency is WP. Strauss and Visser we could live without and it’s difficult to see CdP being a big player for us in the future.

    1. Stu, I wasn’t aware the grandparent rule was in jeopardy. Is it? It can and does attract a lot of moaning in some newspapers and on rugby fan forums but I didn’t think it was being challenged in official rugby circles.
      By way of comparison, FIFA have a longstanding eligibility criterion covering grandparents – one that seems to be non-controversial in the footy world. Unless I’ve missed something, the grandma/grandad rule is well established and will continue unchallenged in Rugby Union.

      1. I don’t believe it is John but Rory needlessly raises the issue in the article.

        There have been a few comments about Watson, Wilson, Maitland and Hardie from down south but I don’t believe that World Rugby will ever change the grandparent rules as it is vital – and likely to become more important – for the Pacific Islanders.

    2. Stu – is Scotland the only nation where upwards of a fifth of the native population have moved abroad? Presumably the Irish would come close to that, or even higher given the hysteria that greets St Patricks Day every year.

      Is it not more pertinent to note the percentage of rugby players who play abroad? The likes of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga seem to have huge numbers of exiles plying their trade in Europe (and I’m not even going to mention the numbers playing in Aus/NZ for fear of setting off any Kiwi’s who might be on the blog forums). I’ll admit I’ve no idea of what the numbers are so I could be completely wrong.

      I don’t think Rory has needlessly raised the Grandparent issue either. There is currently a lot of chat from within World Rugby regarding eligibility. Most of it is centred on residency, but as a governing body, they would be failing to show due diligence if they did not assess all aspects of eligibility criteria so that they are in a position to justify their use if/when there are any legal challenges with respect to a player being available for selection by a national Union.

      1. Without a tightening of the eligibility criteria international rugby as a meaningful sport will be restricted to a core group of Tier 1 nations with the finances to recruit promising players from overseas. It would be no different from the professional club game where those with the deepest pockets have an inbuilt advantage.
        In the professional era being an international player is a strong bargaining chip in negotiating a lucrative club contract. Players also benefit financially big time by playing for the Tier 1 national teams. At the most basic level project players are mercenaries for hire, willing to play for whoever will pay. If Ireland had come calling before the SRU does one imagine the likes of Nel and Strauss would have been any less committed to their new country? Wearing the blue of Scotland both have done no more than one would expect of an employee, ie perform to the best of their ability as per their contract.
        There have to be some boundaries on international player eligibility. The residency period needs to be significant to show the commitment of an individual to a country. I also agree with the French stance that residency is not sufficient, and that to be eligible players also need to be a citizen of the country they are playing for.

      2. “Stu – is Scotland the only nation where upwards of a fifth of the native population have moved abroad?”

        Ireland has a whole has less than a 1/6 of their native born population living abroad. The RoI has mechanisms it can use to address migration, Scotland does not.

        1971 populations: Scotland, 5.2m. England 46m, Wales 2.7m, Northern Ireland 1.5m, RoI 3m.

        2011 populations: Scotland 5.3m, England 53m, Wales 3m, NI 1.8m, RoI 4.5m

        So over 40 years Scotland’s total population has stood still whilst the other nations have all experienced at least 10% growth. It actually gets far worse the more you look into it but that should be enough information to demonstrate that we are at a unique disadvantage.

      3. Thanks for the links Stu, but I’m not convinced that they support your point. The first link quotes the OECD and states that Ireland have a higher number of over 15 year olds living abroad than anyone else – more than Portugal and New Zealand.

        First point – it says Ireland has the highest number
        Second point – New Zealand are the best rugby team in the world. They have a similar number of emigrants as Portugal, who are not the best rugby team in the world. This suggests that the %age of people living outside their country of birth doesn’t have a huge influence on success in rugby. There is more going on than movement of people.

        As for the apparent plateau in Scotlands’ population – none of the links provide any evidence that this is due to Scots-born people emigrating. They don’t provide any explanation for the stagnation at all. How does this impact on Scottish Rugby?

      4. The OECD don’t do figures for Scotland so that’s irrelevant.

        The people who are leaving NZ are generally not the Maori and PI population who make up a large chunk of the ABs.

        “As for the apparent plateau in Scotlands’ population – none of the links provide any evidence that this is due to Scots-born people emigrating. They don’t provide any explanation for the stagnation at all. How does this impact on Scottish Rugby?”

        The stagnation is due to young people leaving to find work elsewhere. The population has stayed level despite 900,000 people now living here who were born outside Scotland and life expectancy increasing. The only way this is possible is huge emigration of Scots born people.

        As for how it effects Rugby I don’t think the effects of losing young Scots graduates and replacing them with older English people who are often retired and people from non Rugby countries is going to result in potentially less kids playing the game in Scotland.

  8. speaking as a bmf living overseas

    I think nationality is over analysed and pretty dubious morally whenever you look too closely, what does it ultimately boil down to

    in the context of sport, who cares exactly what the rules are and if they are blurred at the edges, we draw a line somewhere to help people feel part of something

    ultimately it ever only carries the importance we give it

    i was quite invested in the fate of Rep Ire and Romania in the 94 world football cup and think Strauss and Nel are awesome

  9. Interesting article.

    with each passing decade people around earth become more intertwined. More people traveling, settling overseas, marrying foreigners etc.
    I wonder if anyone is silly enough to throw the ‘plastic Scot’ remark at guys like Hardie, Watson, Strauss if they see up close the battering these guys take on the field. They’re not paid millions either to put their health on the line like that. These fellas are committed, they care. That said, I would extend the residency qualification from 3 years.

    From Lineen to John Leslie, Dan Parks, Nel and Hardie. Scottish rugby has a rich history of integrating top class players with foreign accents.

    1. You were making a good point there Bee, then you had to spoil it with that last sentence. 4 out of 5 of the players on your list were/are top class. The 5th had the accent, and gave his all in a Scotland jersey, but couldn’t be thought of as top class :0)

      1. I remember after the RWC and even last year’s 6N people were talking about Hardie being a Lion, I wonder what’s changed other than him being injured.

      2. I’m guessing he meant 3rd rather than 5th. Parks was a very limited player but he was better than anything we had at the time. Also remember the 2010 6N he won 3 MOTMs, including the glorious day against Ireland when we ruined their Triple Crown and Croke Park farewell party. The guy gets a lot of undue criticism but it is a bit of a meme on this site.

      3. Doddie – I wouldn’t criticise Parks for being something he wasn’t. He was a lovely kicker of a ball, and had capable game management at club level, but he was not top class in the international game. He did give his all for the jersey though, as did every player selected in my view, but he was in an era when Scotland struggled to put genuine stars on the pitch.

  10. A good piece Rory, and good to see that we wouldn’t be so destitute of talent if we lost our project players. Obviously there is an impact, and it is greater if you remove the Grandparent criteria, but it demonstrates that the SRU are putting in place the systems to allow young players to progress from talented youngster to representative honours, albeit a few years behind other Unions.

    For me, the Grandparent criteria should stay. As others have noted, it works in other sports, and has worked in rugby for a long time, with the odd exception. Perhaps a few tweaks to ensure that the necessary paperwork has t’s crossed and i’s dotted.

    For me the bigger concern is the potential fall out of moving to a 5 year residency period. Will this mean that players are enticed to move to other countries at younger ages? It already happens in the Southern Hemisphere, where the Pacific Islanders living in New Zealand are reputed to outnumber those on the islands, and this is partly due to scholarships linked to rugby. This is the standard AB defence to any accusations of player poaching – but they went to school here!

    The French clubs Brive and Clermont have had an Academy set up in Fiji since before 2015 with the express intention of creaming off the best players to go and live in France. This neatly bypasses the admirable actions of the FFR in moving to a 5 year residency rule by having the kids move to France when they are about 14 years old. I believe that there are similar plans by English clubs, although can’t remember who. As Grahame mentioned above, it can be very hard to resist the lure of a lucrative contract when your living standards are well below those in Europe.

    But what happens if you don’t make it to the top? What happens to those who suffer a career ending injury at the age of 16? Will World Rugby put something in place to protect vulnerable children, living in a far-off foreign land from exploitation at the hands of mercenary agents? It needs to be considered, or it makes a mockery of the unspoken values – camaraderie, inclusion, etc of the game. This Telegraph article has some worrying examples of player exploitation:

    There was an article on the BBC Sport website the other day about the competition between Manchester City and Manchester United to recruit the best young local talent. Apparently City now offer a place at a private school for kids who they sign for their Academy. The fee’s are in the region of £3k a term and City will continue to pay these up to GCSE level, even if the child is released prior to this. Obviously City are awash with money, but going beyond the initial duty of care to provide this level of support is, for me, a fantastic development. Pro sport is a cut throat business, and doesn’t usually care what happens to you if you don’t make the cut. As a parent I would be very cautious of my children pursuing a career in sport without a safety net, and this helps address that. I don’t think that there is the money in rugby to do this, but it shows that it is possible to look after those who don’t quite make it. The challenge to World Rugby is to make sure that they don’t create a vacuum by changing the residency period which allows players to be abused.

  11. John Hardie for me is like Simone Favaro in that he throws himself into contact with apparently little regard for his own personal safety. Anyone who questions his, or indeed any of the players that have represented Scotland through residency or a grandparent is being, in my opinion, hugely disrespectful.

    Irrespective of how a player comes to wear the dark blue, I am confident that they will continue to give their all. At the end of the day these are professional athletes with a huge measure of pride in all they do, and gone are the days when a player might not give 100% and still coast into the team. We now have a strength in depth that means that anyone not up to scratch will find themselves gathering dust.

    I believe that the current rule on residency qualification should be extended to 5 years, but the other rules are fine as is.

  12. Beat me to it Doddies Trews, Parks was pretty limited but on his day was very effective, I particularly remember a display in/V Argentina where Parks had a brilliant game

  13. NZ schools already give scholarships to PI kids to get them in early, give a Tongan kid a rugby scholarship when they’re 15 and even with these new rules hey presto! by 20 they’re ready for the All Blacks. This messes up their social and cultural education and has much worse affects on the community than Cornell du Preez at Edinburgh which is apparently the problem.

    World Rugby is becoming like Brexit – ignore actual issues but ‘fix’ immigration (or in this case nationality). Nationality is a tricky concept as the anecdotes on here suggest. You know what isn’t tricky? Pacific Islanders and other Tier 2 nations having regular games vs Tier 1 nations but oh wait …. That doesn’t line World Rugby’s pockets with huge sponsorship money! How silly of me for thinking Beaumont, Gosper and the suits care about global competition more than a quick buck. Dan Leo did an interview with the Rugby Dungeon saying PI players have to pay sometimes to play for their country … Meanwhile Hughes gets close to 30 grand for one England game. You get the chance to play a couple of years for England and set your community up for life.

    World Rugby should be ashamed of themselves. Fix the administration of the game and you’ll improve it as a competitive spectacle. Not by this pointless Farage esk attack on nationality.

    1. England players get £22k per game, and fair play to them for it as it’s a brutal game. It is still very harsh on Pacific Islanders. Not sure how World Rugby can fix the administration of the game to redress the living standards in different parts of the world – that might be beyond their scope. All they can do is carry out a proper assessment of the current elegibity rules and make changes which are best for the game overall, not just those at the top of the pile.

    2. It’s not just NZ that give out scholarships to prospective players. The Vinapolo brothers became English players as opposed to Welsh, where they spent the majority of their childhood by getting scholarships to Millfield and Harrow schools.

      Saracens have a handy relationship with Harrow, Mario Itoje also went there.

      I have nothing against talented kids getting these kind of opportunities in their sport as well as in life but we just have to accept that it goes on a lot closer to home than we may care to admit, including the Scottish private schools.

      As I said before, I am not convinced that changing the time frame will make much difference for qualification will make much difference to the current situation. Players like Nathan Hughes would have waited another two years to play for England. Someone like Big Brian, who is only 22, may well choose to wait and play for Scotland rather than for Samoa (for whom he played at U20s).

      The Scottish public, especially in the current climate would not accept a team that did not have a Scottish feel about, so I have no fears that it would ever be over run with foreign born players. By the same token, I don’t think having a few, time serve individuals who put their hearts and souls into the team will be resented either.

      As a final point, I would say that being born somewhere is in my opinion, in its own right, is a very poor qualification criteria. You could have spent one or two days in a country, an accident of birth with no other connection to the country and that gives you more rights than someone who has stayed and settled in the country for a number of years and yet no-one questions that.

      Just saying!

    3. Completely agree that the residency qualification period is a bit of a red herring. If this is about protecting the Tier2 nations, and specifically the pacific islanders, then extending this rule to 5, 6 or 7 years won’t make a huge difference. These nations need to get home games against the big players. This will bring in the crowds, money, TV rights, money, sponsorship and money.
      World Rugby should be able to get all the Tier1 nations (I mean the 6N and the 4 RC sides) to sign up to playing at least two tests a year against other opposition. One of which has to be away. Whether that is during the summer (when we tour) or the Autumn internationals.
      For example, if England want to play Oz 3 times in the summer, surely they can fit in a warm up test against Fiji? Or play Samoa instead of Oz (again) in the AIs. If Scotland are going to tour Argentina, could we not find a place in the Schedule for Uruguay?
      If you’re going to expand the world rugby family, you’ve got to do more than just make it slightly more difficult to change nationality.

      1. Merlot I completely agree. This would also help the likes of Georgia, Romania and the rest to get regular games against Tier 1 opposition. IMO this is a much better solution to helping Tier 2 nations develop than changing the 6N format, which essentially means admitting one more to the elite and doing nothing for the rest.

  14. I’m not against the residency rule, but do feel it should be extended substantially. If people have moved, set up a new life, started a family etc then i think they can ‘adopt’ a new country. Some of our players have been here for a good stretch of their relatively young lives. Strauss’ comments are laughably cynical however. Fair play to his Saffer straight talking though.
    Losing Hamish would bring me great sadness! I think in his case we could blag it though. Give him some Scot’s elocution lessons and with a name like Hamish Watson he could sail under the radar.

  15. Noticed on Twitter graph stating that 43% of Scotland’s players since 2005 were born ‘abroad’. Very misleading as it doesn’t separate those born in England – which can’t really be described as abroad as we share citizenship if the same nation-state. Scotland’s population is 5 1/4 million and there are just under 800,000 Scottish born people living in England. So it is not exactly surprising that a huge number of players in our squad are English born – it is where the vast majority of the recent Scottish diaspora lives. There are probably as many English born people with a Scots parent or grandparent living in England and there are people born in Scotland. So really the stats in that graph are wilfully misleading.

    1. Haven’t seen the graph, FF. What I can say is I am one of three brothers, the first (me) and next one down born in Edinburgh. Of Scottish parents, grand parents and great grand parents. My Mum and Dad moved to London when Mum was eight months gone with my youngest brother, so he was born in England. He gets a bit of joshing from time to time because of that accident of birthplace. That place of birth doesn’t make him English, and if anything he’s more Scots than his older siblings! Needless to say, my middle brother and I are Scots and that’s that.
      The other thing I’d add is that I’ve had the pleasure to meet some of Tim Visser’s close family. They are absolutely bursting with pride about Tim’s achievement in playing for Scotland, so much so that it’s humbling to be in their company. As far as Tim is concerned, he’s as much of a Jock as my youngest bro!

      1. Ha! Exactly the same story here JohnMc, although swap London for Carlisle! Unfortunately my youngest brother thinks of himself as a true St Georges cross waving Englishman…”made in Scotland” my mother likes to remind him constantly though..much to his embarrassment lol!!!

      2. It was RT by ScottishRugbyBlog on the Twitter feed on this site. I found it v annoying as it is very different for an English-born Scot to play for Scotland, than say for France to field Nakataci, Vakatawa, Atonio, and Spedding in their 6N line-up (not to mention Bernard Roux who’s been jettisoned by Noves). But Spedding has become a French citizen! So that’s ok!

  16. I see no good reason to change the residency law from 3 to 5 years.

    We are seeing more player injuries than ever before, the SRU are resting players, squads need to be deeper and once you lose your place through injury, you need to win it back as the stand-in has usually adapted.The days of 100 plus caps will be fewer than ever despite the fact we play more games now. This is not broken, why change it.

    Incidently Tim V is not the first Dutchman to play for Scotland we played a dutchman called Franz Ten Boss back in the 60’s and his obituary is worth a read.–obituary/

    I thnk we could do with Hughie MacLeod giving the Grays a word of advice before the match this weekend.

    When it comes to playing other nationalities, England started it all, Alexander Obolensky the Russian prince being the earliest example. In 1936 Obolensky was hastily given a British passport and scored 2 tries against the All Blacks. His statue remains in Ipswich.

    1. Ah, poor Obolensky…

      From nobility amongst the Russian Tsars to a statue in Ipswich via the English rugby team……. A salutary lesson to project players everywhere!

      Excellent obituary on ten Bos – thanks for the link Bulldog.

      1. Thanks, what a life, a life well lived in my opinion, inspirational. I recall elsewhere that programs and the press kept spelling his name wrongly. The most amusing being Franz Tin Bin. Now that is one way to get a man’s dander up for the game.

  17. An interesting article and really thought-provoking discussion. Highlights just how complex identity and nationhood can be.

    I’d definitely welcome a move to 5 years residency. But that doesn’t mean in any way questioning the commitment and passion shown by some of our project players (Strauss v France for instance).

    While I appreciate it may not find fabour with everyone I would like to see blood qualification changed from a grandparent to a parent. But wonder if this could be offset by allowing anyone with a scottish grandparent to qualify if they play their club rugby in Scotland for 3 years. Just a thought.

  18. I think the Denton thing is a hope to bring weight to the pack. The guy’s been out too long and unless he is tearing up trees, no chance. The problem, is as everyone knows, parity at the set piece before we get the ball moving. See France. Hoping that Gordy Reid has been eating his Weetabix (and reviewing Glasgow v Leicester / Dan Cole).

You might also like these:

The Scotland team to face Chile this weekend has been announced and features 10 changes from the side that beat the USA last weekend.
Rory watches as Scotland reach the half way point in their tour with victory over the USA in Washington.
Craig is joined by Rory and Iain to look at the latest news including Scotland's win over Canada and the upcoming test against the USA.
Gregor Townsend has picked the strongest XV possible from his touring squad for the visit to Washington DC to play the USA, writes Rory.

Scottish Rugby News and Opinion