THE SRU have generated negative headlines recently with their ‘project players’ – and I have to agree with them.
Bringing players over from South Africa – or elsewhere – with a view to them qualifying to represent Scotland after the three-year residency period leaves a bitter taste. It devalues the international jersey and does nothing to inspire young Scottish players.
As an aspiring player, toiling away week in, week out as you strive to don national colours, it must be so disenchanting to see the union looking overseas, denying them a chance to fill that jersey.
The move also smacks of an inferiority complex. The home nations should back their own talent and not put a player on a pedestal simply because he’s from New Zealand or South Africa.
So what’s the solution? I’d extend the residency qualification from three years to five. That way players have to show a real commitment to their chosen country and it will stop older southern hemisphere players heading north in their late twenties having failed to make a Tri-Nations squad, thinking they’ll find it easier to be selected for Test rugby on this side of the world.
At the moment, players can strive to make the World Cup squad of one country, then move abroad to qualify for another in time for the next tournament.
Secondly, I think playing for a country’s U20 team or any senior side should automatically tie you to that country.
This creates a standardised system that prevents the confusion generated by last year’s Steve Shingler case. He couldn’t represent Scotland because Wales had designated their U20s side – for which Shingler had played – as their ‘second team’. He clearly hadn’t understood those ramifications.
Many fans question how the likes of Thomas Waldrom and Brad Barritt can play for England after representing NZ Maori and the Emerging Boks respectively. By drawing a clear line from the U20s upwards, the policy is far more consistent.
Playing Test rugby is an honour and a privilege – having players switch allegiances willy-nilly tarnishes that idea. Yes, rugby’s a professional sport, but we should cherish the traditional values of pride and passion, especially at the highest level.
This was published in the February 2013 edition of Rugby World. Click here to find out what’s in the current issue.