World Rugby’s decision to allow players to represent a second national team after a three-year stand-down period could be something of a game-changer.
From 1st January 2022 an international player will be allowed to transfer once from one union to another if they can demonstrate “a close and credible link to that union via birth right” (i.e. they were born in the country they wish to transfer to, or have a parent or grandparent born in that country) and have not played international rugby for 36 months.
The change should, in theory, help Tier 2 nations – and in particular Pacific Island teams – “re-capture” players who have previously chosen to play for a Tier 1 nation through a residency qualification,
While supportive in principle, my fear with this is the likelihood of unintended consequences, with players switching between Tier 1 teams – possibly for financial reasons – on the strength of a dubious link to a particular country. Six Nations teams are already “capturing” South African players, for instance, and it is more than possible that players may have grandparents from more than one country.
The grandparent rule – which makes a player eligible for a country if one grandparent was born there – is of particular concern, hardly being a “close and credible link” to a country in most cases.
I suspect the new ruling may therefore cause as many issues as it solves.
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