The IRB have announced new measures designed to combat players declaring new citizenship with the intention of playing rugby for that country.
The move comes in the wake of news last week that Thomas Waldrom ‘discovered’ an English granny and is now in contention to represent England in this year’s Rugby World Cup – a revelation that has caused some controversy around the world.
In the UK, a player can claim citizenship if any parent or grandparent is a UK citizen or on ‘residency’ after living in the country for three years or more – in modern rugby, this is not a particularly long stint at a club.
Whilst the rules vary by country, the IRB is set to introduce standard practice across the rugby world to ensure ‘a level playing field’ as they put it.
Rather than following local government laws, each player will be able to stipulate which country they would like to represent, and will not be allowed to change their decision once made. They can, however, choose any country they wish, regardless of citizenship.
An IRB source said, “We’re expecting 99% of players to state that they’d like to play for their own country, so it won’t make a huge amount of difference, but this should clear up any doubt over changes of citizenship.”
Saracen’s and England’s Dave Strettle had a view on how it could affect his England colleagues: [podcast]Podcasts/DaveStrets.mp3[/podcast]
Whilst the IRB is probably right in that national pride will be the key factor in most decisions, players will need to ask themselves whether they’d like to be a small fish in a big pond, or vice versa. The draw of international rugby at any level is strong, and players could pitch themselves at whichever country they feel is at their level – or perhaps plays their preferred style of rugby.
Here at The Rugby Blog HQ, we’ve been considering what movement we might see. We thought that Chris Ashton is so confident that he might elect to represent New Zealand or Australia, whilst former captain Steve Borthwick, who still harbours international ambitions, could opt for Romania or Georgia where he can dominate the European Nations Cup year after year.
Rugby World’s Editor, Paul Morgan commented: [podcast]/Podcasts/PaulMorgan.mp3[/podcast]
Here are some other suggestions:
James Simpson-Daniel: Australia, where they put less emphasis on size, and more on talent and skill
James Haskell: Georgia, where the emphasis is very much on bulk, rather than talent or skill
Matt Banahan: Japan, where he really would be a big fish
Ugo Monye: USA, where he could live the celebrity lifestyle and still look quite good at rugby
Iain Balshaw: Andorra, a stone’s throw from Biarritz where he plays at club level
What are your thoughts? Can you think of other players that might consider switching to another country?