More changes in Eligibility criteria for International Rugby Union?
Following his excursion to La-La-land last month, the recent statement by Scottish Rugby Union CEO Mark Dodson that he would like to bring in more non-Scottish “project players” to plug gaps in the Scottish team ought to set alarm bells ringing for so-called ‘Tier 2’ nations.
Dodson’s comments follow the successful introduction of Dutch winger Tim Visser into the Scotland team. McVisser, who has made an excellent start to his international rugby career, qualified to play for Scotland under the current 3 year residency rule and turned down the chance to play for his native Holland in order to represent his adopted country.
The ramifications of this are obvious. What is to prevent Tier 1 nations from simply recruiting the best available young talent from “lesser” nations by offering young players development contracts in excess of the current 3 year eligibility period? It’s one thing to offer international rugby to southern hemisphere journeymen – it’s quite another to plunder the Tier 2 talent pool.
I have previously suggested that the IRB reviews the eligibility rules and considers adopting the system currently being operated by the England & Wales Cricket Board, namely that a player must complete a residence period of 7 consecutive years, unless he arrives in the country as an under-18 (where a 4 year period applies).
On reflection this still may not be enough. What is clear, however, is that if the IRB truly wants a global game then Tier 2 nations will need better protection against their players being poached by the big boys – otherwise the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ will simply continue to grow.