Scotland’s shame to vote against the five-year rule
Well done World Rugby for finally getting to grips with the ridiculous three-year residency rule that led to the affront to the game that is ‘project players’.
A country could find a foreign player who wasn’t quite good enough to play for their homeland, invite them to join one of their clubs, regions or provinces, and after three years, Bob’s your uncle, they were qualified for international selection.
The sad thing is that the new rule comes into effect only at the end of 2020, so any international mercenary who’s been based in a country for the past six months can still qualify under the old rules.
Most countries saw the sense in extending the rule to five years, but to their eternal shame, the Scots were against it. The reason cited was Scotland’s small player pool, but that in itself begs a question: could the SRU have done more over the years to attempt to grow the game? The answer to that is a resounding ‘yes’, with their failure to properly capitalise on the strength of the game in the Borders, or to build the relationship with London Scottish, high on the list of their blunders. Instead they’ve been coaxing foreign players to move to Scotland, to the extent that in the recent Six Nations the Scots had not far off 20 players who had been born somewhere else! Never mind the Six Nations, there were 20 nations represented in the tournament!
While the change to the residency rules will go a long way to solving the project player problem, it doesn’t do much to tackle what some see as the exploitation of players from the Pacific Islands. The key to that issue is the difference in economic wealth between the likes of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, and the SANZAAR and Northern Hemisphere nations. In the 2015 RWC, 28 of the 31-man Fiji squad played their rugby overseas, and that isn’t going to change anytime soon. If a talented young player gets offered big bucks to move to another country, what they earn can be enough to support their family back home, so of course they’ll go – move them at 15 and they’ll still be qualified by 20.
What is needed is for the economies of the Islands to prosper, but that’s outside rugby’s control. However, getting money into their Unions is something that could be resolved if everyone was convinced that the money would be spent wisely and well – not something that has necessarily happened in the past.
If you want to hear a noright holds-barred opinion on rugby in the Islands, then Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu is your man. His take on the residency rules changes focused on the appointment of former New Zealand 7s coach, Sir Gordon Tetjens, as the coach of the Samoa 7s team.
He made the point that Tetjens coached New Zealand for 22 years, but could seamlessly move to the Samoa role, despite not speaking the language: “If old white male coaches are allowed to coach multiple countries they have no connection to, then Polynesian players should be allowed to play for multiple countries they do have a connection to… (right now) if a Samoan/Fijian kid plays one second for New Zealand, that kid cannot play for anyone
Relse, even the country of his/her birth and the birth countries of his/her parents.”
He has a point, so while praising World Rugby for fixing the project players problem, we shouldn’t let them off the hook on this one – there’s much more still to be done. egarding the 2019 RWC draw, Eddie Jones got it spot on when he said that two tough pool games – England have France and Argentina – is the best preparation for the knockout stages, and he exuded positivity. France’s Guy Noves, and the Pumas coach, Daniel Hourcade, both had a whinge about how tough it was going to be: first blood to Jones by quite some margin!
At the same time, World Rugby also announced the extension of their partnership with French bank Societe Generale, which presumably must call into question Sonny Boy Williams’ participation for the All Blacks.
He has opted out of wearing a bank’s logo because he feels financial organisations’ practices conflict with his Islamic faith. It’s hard to imagine him playing in an event where one of the world’s biggest bank’s logo is going to be plastered everywhere.
Critic: Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu