Rugby World Cup 2015

Residency rule for player eligibility may be tweaked

LONDON • The pool stages may be over but the debate over player eligibility at the Rugby World Cup looks likely to rumble on ahead of the next tournament in 2019.

Statistics compiled at the start of the tournament by website Americas Rugby News showed that 135 players were not born in the country they represented - a total of almost 22 per cent.

Samoa had the most, with 13 of their squad born in New Zealand.

  • NUMBER OF FOREIGN-BORN PLAYERS IN EACH SQUAD

  • Samoa: 13

    Tonga: 12

    Wales, Scotland and Japan: 11

    France: 10

    Australia, Italy, United States: 6

    Canada, Ireland, New Zealand: 5

    Romania: 4

    England, Fiji: 3

    Namibia: 2

    Georgia, South Africa, Uruguay: 1

    Argentina: 0

Tonga were not far behind with 12 and there were 11 each for Wales, Scotland and Japan.

Argentina are the only competing nation not to boast players born outside the country in their 31-man squad.

Unsurprisingly, New Zealand are the most represented nation at the World Cup, with 39 turning out for other nations than the All Blacks, while 10 countries have South Africa-born players.

Wales, who will face the Springboks in the quarter-finals courtesy of beating England at Twickenham, have nine players who were born in England.

At present, the rules governing player eligibility must satisfy one of seven stipulations, including the controversial residency rule.

It allows players to represent countries where they have lived for just three years.

On the eve of this World Cup, South African-born Josh Strauss qualified to play for Scotland after fulfilling the required residency.

And just days later, the No. 8 made his debut in a win over Japan.

World Rugby's chief executive Brett Gosper said officials were preparing to review the rules ahead of next year's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

"There's no question that the salaries are very high in France and in England and it's very tempting for players to ply their trade in the Northern Hemisphere," he noted.

"When that (rule) was determined, I don't think there was quite the flow of players in international movement that it's become in recent years, through Europe and Japan, and so on.

"So maybe it's time to take a look at that, and see if that's correct or some adjustment needs to be made."THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2015, with the headline 'Residency rule for player eligibility may be tweaked'. Print Edition | Subscribe