It has been a rich source of talent for the Irish Rugby team but it has also been questioned as being detrimental to the values of the game and damaging to weaker nations. Now the eligibility rules to play international Rugby other than for the country of your birth have been changed, dramatically.

From 1 January 2022, in order to transfer from one union to another under the revised Regulation 8 (eligibility), a player will need to be either born in the country they want to play for or have a parent or a grandparent born in that country.

Transfers can only be made with the express permission of World Rugby and only after a grace period of 36 months where the player has stood down from international rugby.

“Approval of the amended regulation follows requests by emerging nations and a subsequent wide-ranging consultation process with member unions, regions and International Rugby Players,” said a statement this afternoon from World Rugby.

“Approval of this landmark regulatory change is the culmination of detailed and widespread modelling and consultation across the game,” said Chairman Bill Beaumont.

“We have listened to our membership and players and sought to update the regulation recognising the modern professional rugby environment without compromising the integrity of the international game.”

“Any player who wishes to transfer will need to have a close and credible link to their new union, namely birthright or parent or grandparent birthright while meeting strong criteria, including a 36-month stand-down period.”

“We believe that this is the fairest way to implement progressive change that puts players first while also having the potential to support a growing, increasingly competitive international men’s and women’s game.”

Players could previously apply for a transfer after three years of residence and both CJ Stander and Bundee Aki became central figures in the Irish Rugby team as a result. The rule was thought to have been in line to be extended to five years from the end of 2021 but now appears to have been scrapped entirely.

It has to be assumed, though has not implicitly been stated, that players who have qualified under the existing rule will still be permitted to play though the wording of the regulation is ambiguous.

How this impacts on international management, and indeed on the ability of the provinces to attract talent with the potential of an international career as an added bonus will have to play out differently from January to the way they have for the past number of years.



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