IRB shouldn’t restrict players to one country

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    Many of the world’s best rugby players will not be playing in the 2011 World Cup, and it isn’t because of injury. It’s because the IRB (International Rugby Board) forbid it by limiting each player to just one country.

    If the IRB wants a competitive World Cup, then they really are shooting themselves in the foot.

    Fiji, Samoa and Tonga are begging to be World Cup contenders, but the current rules just won’t allow it.

    A perfect example of this is Radike Samo, who will play number eight for the Reds in the Super Rugby Grand Final.

    Samo was born and played under-19s rugby in Fiji, he also lived and played rugby in Australia over a long period. Calling Samo anything other than a Fijian-Australian would be absurd.

    Samo played six Tests for Australia back in 2004 and so he won’t ever represent Fiji at a full international level, despite having clear as day links to the nation.

    We live in a glorious world in 2011, a world where one could fly right around the globe in around 40 hours. This has led to many men and women identifying with more then one nation.

    This is recognised in all kinds of different ways, most notably dual-citizenships.

    Governments the world over are willing to recognise that people can identify with more than one nation, yet the IRB are not.

    This is not saying a player should be allowed to switch between countries at will, but surely a system could be found.

    How is it that the ability to play for more than one country in a lifetime has not ruined so many other sports?

    I think, there is much to be said for the International Basketball Federation and their willingness to look at things on a case-by-case basis, this might see Kyrie Irving play for Australia making us more competitive and adding to the international game.

    Perhaps, a more realistic system would be much closer to International Cricket Council’s, which says you can’t play for two nations within a set time period.

    Another rule added to this could be that both nations can’t be tier one. This would ensure that for the most part, the rule would see great rugby players playing out their days for the nations of their ancestry and there is nothing wrong with that.

    How great would it be to see James So’oialo run out with older brother and international rugby legend, Rodney, in the Samoan strip?

    How much would being around a seasoned professional like Matt Dunning add to the Canadian team?

    Do terrific players like Erik Lund and Isa Nacewa deserve to never play high level Test matches because of a mistake in their youth?

    Surely, a balance between our current system and rugby league’s can be found. Rugby needs more nations to be competitive to further our tag of being a world game.

    The IRB needs to make a ruling on this before the 2015 World Cup.

    And the answer is obvious.

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    The Crowd Says (136)

    • July 6th 2011 @ 4:19am
      jus de couchon said | July 6th 2011 @ 4:19am | ! Report

      I think crickets the best model where players are allowed to change their team once but only after a couple of years . If Samoans disscarded by Aus and NZ were allowed to play for Samoa there would be a team to rival the closed shop of the big 5 .

      • July 6th 2011 @ 8:25am
        anopinion said | July 6th 2011 @ 8:25am | ! Report


        If all Samoans played their best years for Samoa they would have a great team. Samoa should not have to wait for hand me down players from big brother nations.

      • July 6th 2011 @ 8:53am
        jokerman said | July 6th 2011 @ 8:53am | ! Report

        NPG, Great article and I so agree. If this was allowed it would make it such a better WC. All the island teams would be improved, and we would get to see old players return.

        IRB have been cruel and tough with this. It benefits the Island teams, and perhaps that concerns the IRB. Steve Hansen, All Black assistant coach said a year ago when IRB rejected the proposal to allow 2 countries to be represented, that it didn’t help that Samoa had just nearly defeated Wales. There is some truth to this.

        Japan would also be stronger. There is probably 50 players around the world who could add flavour, talent, and competition to this WC, who won’t be there, because of a rule.

        In the end it comes down to dictatorship, control. Samo should be allowed to play for his native country.

      • July 6th 2011 @ 10:59am
        jokerman said | July 6th 2011 @ 10:59am | ! Report

        You are right, Jus de, that format would be perfect. Come WC time with players like Jerry Collins, Tana Umanga, they could challenge the top 5. That is where the problem lies, on one level the IRB does not want that.

        • July 6th 2011 @ 2:01pm
          Michael Clark said | July 6th 2011 @ 2:01pm | ! Report

          Except that these guys are not Samoan. They are New Zealanders, born and bred, who happen to be of Samoan ethnic heritage. If your logic was extrapolated uniformly, no Australian or New Zealand players of European heritage would be eligible as first choice players for Australia or NZ unless they renounced eligibility for the countroies of their ethnic heritage.

          • July 6th 2011 @ 2:05pm
            kovana said | July 6th 2011 @ 2:05pm | ! Report

            Actually, they are also Samoan Citizens…. They have Samoan Passports, and parents or grandparents were born in Samoa.

            Jerry Collins is a Samoan citizen as well as a NZ citizen.

            Surprise surprise, SO AM I! Im also hoping to get my Ozzie Citizenship!

            • July 6th 2011 @ 2:08pm
              Michael Clark said | July 6th 2011 @ 2:08pm | ! Report

              That’s right, just as many of us are eligible for dual citizenship with the countries of our ethnic heritage (the qualification rules vary considerably from country to country) many Islanders who were born and bred in Australia or NZ are also eligible for Samoan, Fijian or Tongan passports. What’s the difference?

              • July 6th 2011 @ 2:15pm
                Michael Clark said | July 6th 2011 @ 2:15pm | ! Report

                The point I’m trying to make is that the PI players are not somehow being treated differently to players of any other ethnic identity and the islands are not being maliciously stripped of talent by larger countries. These are myths. PI players born and bred in Australia and NZ probably have an easier route to represent the countries of theeir ethnic heritage (rather than the country of their birth, and day to day citizenship) if they so choose. However, most don’t and I think we can reasonably assume that this is for similar reasons to other sportspersons opting to represent the country in which they grew up and developed. Their are exceptions to this in many sports, but they are exceptions.

    • July 6th 2011 @ 4:56am
      Damo said | July 6th 2011 @ 4:56am | ! Report

      NPG this is a debate worth having. And you make some sound points.
      Yes it would be great if Radike could play for someone in this world cup. The way he is going though it could be for us.
      One question in your structure though – how to define a top 5 nation?
      Another thing – what about European cllubs releasing players to play for their homelands in the cup?

    • July 6th 2011 @ 5:48am
      Lee said | July 6th 2011 @ 5:48am | ! Report

      The only way it should be, in my opinion is if you only play a handful of matches for the first nation you represent – so in Samo’s case, having only played 6 tests for Australia, he can then represent Fiji. In So’oialo’s case, no way! He chose the ABs and made a very successful career out of it.

      International rugby should not be like club rugby, where you can pick and choose who you play for. You make a decision to go for personal glory and results by picking the ABs(or any other team) over your home country, then you should have to live with your choice.

    • July 6th 2011 @ 8:16am
      Darwin Stubbie said | July 6th 2011 @ 8:16am | ! Report

      “Do terrific players like Erik Lund and Isa Nacewa deserve to never play high level ” … Nacewa really doesn’t fit into the overall argument he can play for Fiji

      • July 7th 2011 @ 10:05pm
        Colin N said | July 7th 2011 @ 10:05pm | ! Report

        And neither does Lund because he’s average. He wouldn’t get into the France or England squads.

    • July 6th 2011 @ 8:18am
      Willy said | July 6th 2011 @ 8:18am | ! Report

      I agree with most of your main points.

      Maybe when a player is first selected to play Test rugby they can nominate (up to) two nations they are eligible to represent – a Tier One Nation (Four Southern Nations and Six Northern Nations), and a Tier Two Nation (everyone else).

      And a player will then be able to represent either nation.

      You would need to introduce some limitations – maybe you can’t represent more than one nation in a calendar year… something like that.

      But it’s got legs. No doubt about that.

    • July 6th 2011 @ 8:25am
      defunkt said | July 6th 2011 @ 8:25am | ! Report

      Meh, test rugby should be about representing your (or a) country, to let players move around test sides would make a farce of this. The Pacific Island case is relatively isolated and would be better served by getting a combined P.I. team up & playing in Super rugby so that their best players have a professional channel that doesn’t involve being consumed by the systems of other major rugby nations.

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