Wednesday, May 10, 2017

World Rugby Changes Residency To Five Years

World Rugby has made some changes to how a player qualifies for a national team. Gone is the three year residency period needed to represent a country not of your birth and one you don't have citizenship. In it's place is a new five year rule. Most of the discussion around this topic has surrounded players from the Pacific Island turning out for countries like New Zealand, France, or Scotland. Club teams in Europe have often been accused of only bringing in players from a country like Fiji if they promise not to turn out for Fiji and instead wait for French eligibility through the three year rule.

For most Tier II countries the residency rule results in a drain of players from their country. The two big exceptions are the United States and Japan. The  U.S. has had a fairly strong tradition of capping players from other countries after a three year residency period. AJ MacGinty is probably the best example of this but there have been others as well. Almost uniformly the players that have come to the U.S. and gained eligibility have done so to work in the U.S. or to go to school. There is very little bringing in players with the intention of having them play for the Eagles in three years time, it's most been a side benefit of the personal plans of those players. Japan have brought in players to play in the Top League like clubs/countries in Europe have done. The U.S. is probably the only Tier II country without a professional competition to be hurt by this rule.

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All of that said, the U.S. certainly have been developing their own young players and with PRO Rugby last year and Major League Rugby next year there will be more opportunities for young players to play.

Another change introduced by World Rugby include a residency criteria of 10 years cumulative residency in order to be eligible. This means a player can move in and out of a country but as long as they've lived there for 10 cumulative years they can play for their adopted country.

Additionally, if a player is capped by a 7s team but they are under the age of 20 then they are no longer cap tied to that country. That could have been potentially good news for fans hoping to see Toni Pulu but unfortunately he doesn't meet this criteria. He was over 20 years old when he played for Niue at the Gold Coast 7s in 2011.

Lastly, unions are no longer allowed to use the U-20 side as their next senior representative team. Players that appear for the second national team side (i.e. the USA Selects) are cap tied to that country. This prevents countries like South Africa and Wales from using their U-20 team to cap players. This will not impact the Eagles much other than to potentially land new opponents when the likes of Wales, South Africa, and Australia are forced to have second sides.

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