Scot­land’s shame to vote against the five-year rule

The Rugby Paper - - Letters | Views - COLIN BOAG

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

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