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Shingler started a huge debate in rugby circles

The row over Steve Shingler’s eligibility shows that the regulations need to be more defined, writes Craig Chalmers.

There’s nothing wrong with having an exiles network, but I think if you play for a nation at U20 level that should be it, because that means you should have a passion to play for them.

You know what you want by that age. Some players have played full international rugby by then, so it’s not too young to make a decision, even though it’s a tough decision for some players and has big financial implications as well.

The only other option would be to say you could override the choice you made at U20 level by going to live in your new country for three years and qualifying on the three-year residency rule.

Most guys know who they want to play for, if they’re honest about it. A lot of guys who move simply aren’t good enough for the country they really want to play for.

In Shingler’s case maybe he was badly advised, but it does seem strange that he played in the same Wales U20 team as two players who the IRB have said are now eligible for Ireland. All nations nominate one team below their senior XV which counts as their second team when determining players’ eligibility and Wales have nominated their U20s for several years.

Matthew Jarvis and James Loxton played for Wales U20 in 2010 (alongside Shingler v Italy) but have been allowed to switch to Ireland because the teams they played against weren’t nominated second teams. When Shingler played for Wales U20 against France U20 last year, the U20s were France’s nominated second team, so the IRB say he was tied into playing for Wales from that point. But nations are supposed to tell players they are committing themselves and Shingler argues that didn’t happen.

The big problem now is he’s made it known he wants to play for Scotland and that’s not going to look too good to the Welsh selectors. The kid wants to play international rugby. He’s got good skills and is a good ball player. I’m not sure if he’s at international level yet, but (Scotland coaches) Andy Robinson and Gregor Townsend have obviously seen something in him that they want.

I should think guys from Scotland U20 will be pretty annoyed to see someone getting parachuted in from another country. There’s good young talent coming through in Scotland and you wouldn’t want them to think ‘What’s the point?’ But it’s not a massive country so we have to make the best use of all our resources.

This case isn’t as bad as when Brendan Laney came over from New Zealand in 2001 and went straight into the Test team. That was just ridiculous. Laney wasn’t even good enough to play Test rugby. This is a different situation, with a young guy who has ten or 12 years of international rugby ahead of him.

I’d keep the three-year residency rule. Extending the residency qualification to, say, five years, would be too long – it would take you halfway through your potential international career. Tim Visser has waited a long time to play for Scotland and he hopes to do it this summer.

This article appeared in the March 2012 issue of Rugby World Magazine.

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