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In Rugby Eligibility Laws, Who is the Champion- Nurturing or Naturalization?

The interesting fact about this World Cup is that it will feature a Scotsman playing for Canada, a Canadian playing for Ireland, an Irishman playing for the USA, an American playing for England and so on.

Abhinav Katiyar
Last updated: 26.09.2019
Rugby World Cup 2019 | Sports Social Blog

The Rugby World Cup 2019 started on 20th September and will be concluded on 2nd November. The interesting fact about this World Cup is that it will feature a Scotsman playing for Canada, a Canadian playing for Ireland, an Irishman playing for the USA, an American playing for England, an Englishman playing for Fiji, a Fijian playing for Australia, an Australian playing for Samoa, a Samoan playing for New Zealand.

New Zealand are the favourites in this year’s world cup who are 2.10/1 in Rugby predictions to win the world cup this year.

Listening to this may sound absurd, but switching allegiance and playing Betway for other teams has always been an essential part of international rugby.

The loophole of the rules allows players to move abroad easily, naturalise and represent the country on the international level they never had any ties before and this has allowed many rugby-playing nations to do so with ease.

According to World Rugby law, a player can become eligible for the national team if they have lived in a country for three years.

While looking at FIFA, the footballers need to live at least five years in a country to be eligible to take part in the national team while other associations enforce the additional restrictions on top of the previous condition.

Many countries have always been criticized for taking advantage of eligibility laws, like England for selecting scrum-half Willi Heinz, who was born and raised in New Zealand and Ireland for leaving out 67-cap lock Devin Toner in favour of South African Jean Kleyn.

But things are looking like they are about to change with World Rugby bring up their rule up to the standard of FIFA by increasing the qualification period to five years at the end of 2020.

This is an attempt by vice-president Agustin Pichot to help smaller countries from losing their talent and assisting all sides to maintain their nationality.

But, then, how are the new rules going to affect the face of international rugby union? And which countries are going to be affected the most by these changing rules?

Let us take a look at the makeup of every world cup squad to find the answer.

A total of nine-more foreign players are taking part in this world cup in comparison to the last world cup and out of the 20 squads competing in Japan, just three have no foreign-born players. 

Countries like Tonga, Samoa and Japan have more number of foreign-born players than homegrown. Whereas, Scotland, the USA and Australia are just behind.

These six countries are benefiting the most from these lax rules and are going to be most affected by the new regulations when introduced next year.

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But, the irony is that Samoa and Tonga have never been beneficiaries of the system, as their talent pools have been drained by Australia and New Zealand.

Samoa, Tonga and Fiji would definitely feel the benefits of the new rules as they will be able to retain their talents and best players over the upcoming years.

But, for the other remaining four countries, the same could not be said.

Regrettably, the World Cup host, Japan, would be hit the hardest when new rules come into the play. So, it looks like the Brave Blossoms will have to find and train more local talents in the upcoming years. The USA will also be in a similar condition.

Scotland and Australia will lose out a few potential players- those foreign-born players marked for naturalisation, but their pool of inborn talent might shield them for the time being. 

The other top-tier nations would have a similar case where they will have enough domestic talent to make up for the loss of the talent foreign-born players.

So, yes, the new rules will definitely have the desired effect.

Biggers nations will have to use and nurture their own talents instead of poaching smaller countries, and those smaller countries will get to retain their best talents, and they will become more competitive.

These changes should have come into effect a long time ago, instead of allowing naturalisation to have become deep-rooted into the very structure of the game.

The international rugby will definitely evolve into the competitive and authentic game after taking this giant step forward in the right direction.

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