Nine of the first Six Nations matchday 23 for Scotland were not born in the country

Scotland have a number of players in their current Six Nations squad who were not born in the country.

It is not just Scotland but countries around the world that use different eligibility rules to build the best squad they can.

Related: Scotland Six Nations squad

There are several different ways players can qualify to play for a nation:

  1. They were born in the country.
  2. The player has a parent or grandparent who was born in the country.
  3. They have lived in the country for 60 consecutive months (five years) to qualify on residency immediately before playing (this was raised from three years in December 2020)
  4. They have completed ten years of cumulative residence in the country before playing

In Scotland’s first match day squad for the 2023 Six Nations against England, nine of the players included were not born in Scotland.

Duhan van der Merwe, Pierre Schoeman and WP Nel all qualify through residency having been born in South Africa. While Kyle Steyn (South Africa), Sione Tuipulotu (Australia), Ben White, Chris Harris (both England), Simon Berghan (New Zealand) and Jack Dempsey (Australia) qualify through a Scottish relative.

Ireland-born fly-half Ben Healy is at Munster but ahead of his move to Edinburgh next season has been included in the wider Scotland squad as his mother makes him Scottish qualified.

Back rower Dempsey has even benefitted from the recent change in World Rugby regulations that allows players to switch national allegiance after a three-year cooling off period if they have a relative that qualifies them for another country.

In Dempsey’s case, he made 14 appearances for the Wallabies. Another example of that rule coming to fruition could be the arrival of Ulster scrum-half John Cooney, who qualifies through parentage, with Townsend revealing the Ireland international had made contact about switching countries after falling down the pecking order under Andy Farrell.

It is more common for players to have represented a different international U20 side, for example Tuipulotu played for Australia and Ben White even captained England U20. Sam Skinner is another who featured for England’s junior side before switching allegiance at senior level.

Another star who has been key to Scotland’s success is Hamish Watson. The flanker, who was born in England, qualifies for Scotland through his grandfather and on residency.

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has spoken about the way he makes his selection choices.

Read more: Scotland Six Nations fixtures

“You have to pick best players now who are ready to perform with the Six Nations and World Cup around the corner,” he told The Rugby Pod. “In other years you maybe pick the players you believe will be the best players in a year or two. We did that last summer in our tour to Argentina.

“The best players that are available to you whether they have come through your own systems, got Scottish qualification outside of the country or whether they became qualified on residency – that’s our criteria of selection.

“It is not just on playing ability. It’s about taking on information really quickly. It’s about integrating with teammates. There is a cohesion element too. Sometimes you can’t control that.”

However, it is not just Scotland that puts the rules to good use. Across the Six Nations there are players benefitting from the eligibility criteria.

English-born Nick Tompkins, another U20 England international, plays for Wales through his grandmother, New Zealand-born Mako Vunipola qualified for England on residency and Australian Mack Hansen plays for Ireland through his mother.

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