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World Rugby approves 'birthright' rule change to allow players to switch allegiance

New criteria, which will be ‘a real boost to the competitiveness of emerging nations’, come into force from 1 January 2022.

World Rugby announced the new eligibility change on Wednesday.
World Rugby announced the new eligibility change on Wednesday.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

Updated Nov 24th 2021, 6:42 PM

WORLD RUGBY HAS approved a major change to its eligibility criteria which would allow international players to switch allegiance to another country by virtue of birthright.

The rule, which comes into force from 1 January 2022, will allow players to transfer to represent a country provided they were born there, or have a parent or grandparent who was born there.

Players who meet this criteria but who have already represented another country will also be eligible to transfer, but must stand down from international rugby for three years prior to the move.

“Under the revised Regulation 8 criteria, a player may only change union once and each case will be subject to approval by the World Rugby Regulations Committee to preserve integrity,” World Rugby confirmed on Wednesday.

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said: “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.”

He added: “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.”

Vice-chairman Bernard Laporte said that the new regulation will provide “transformational opportunities to players with dual backgrounds”, while International Rugby Players chief executive Omar Hassanein described the change as “a real boost to the competitiveness of emerging nations, which in turn, will benefit the game as a whole”.

Any player who meets the criteria can apply immediately for a transfer from 1 January 2022, opening the door for players to switch allegiance ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

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Niall Kelly

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