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World Rugby launches review of controversial three-year residency rule

The eligibility laws in Test rugby have allowed the likes of CJ Stander and Jared Payne to play for Ireland.

WORLD RUGBY HAS launched the process of officially reviewing the sport’s controversial three-year residency rule.

Under Regulation 8 of the World Rugby Handbook, players can qualify to play Test rugby for a nation by living in that country for a period of three years.

Jared Payne qualified for Ireland under Regulation 8. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Ireland and many other nations have exploited that law to lure players into the country, with the carrot of Test rugby proving difficult to ignore.

The likes of CJ Stander, Jared Payne, Quinn Roux, Richardt Strauss, Nathan White and Rodney Ah You are some of the most recent examples, while there are currently a number of non-native players in the country who will eventually qualify for Ireland.

Many hope to see Connacht’s Bundee Aki and Tom McCartney line out for Ireland in 2017, while Ulster’s Wiehahn Herbst, Leinster’s Jamison Gibson-Park and Munster man Tyler Bleyendaal could pull on the green jersey in the future.

Only yesterday, Munster announced the signing of New Zealand native Rhys Marshall on a three-year deal, potentially lining him up for Ireland caps.

However, World Rugby has now made moves to formally scrutinise Regulation 8 by announcing that a working group will be established immediately in order to determine whether the current regulation is fit for purpose.

The move comes after last week’s World Rugby meetings in Argentina, when the issue of the global calendar also continued to be discussed.

World Rugby vice-chairman Agustín Pichot, a former Pumas scrum-half, is the man behind the new push to look at, and alter, Regulation 8. Speaking in May, Pichot slammed the three-year residency rule.

“We need to change it,” said Pichot in Dublin at that time. “Somebody will kill me, but we need to change it.

“This is my personal opinion – I think it is wrong. It should be for life, like in football. But, I understand maybe a five-year [qualification period] and it has been discussed and I think it will be on the agenda in the next six months.

Agustin Pichot Pichot is determined to change the status quo. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

“It is very important to keep the identity of your national team; it’s very important. It’s a cultural thing and an inspiration to young kids. When you have on your team all players who haven’t lived in the country that they represent, it’s not great.”

Regulation 8 was examined as recently as last year, but that particular review led to World Rugby insisting that the three-year residency law did not need to be changed.

That review saw World Rugby consult with its member unions, who – rather unsurprisingly – insisted that there was no need to change the status quo.

“There didn’t seem to be any appetite to change that,” said World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper of the 2015 review, while also insisting that the image and integrity of Test rugby had not been eroded by exploitation of Regulation 8.

Speaking in May, IRFU Philip Browne indicated that the Irish union was one of those who felt three years was a fair duration for qualification to represent an adopted nation.

We have discussed this with other unions and our position is that it seems fine,” said Browne.

“There is not a huge flow of player across the borders. The rule is three years and we are happy with the rule at three years. If the rule changes to five years, we would be happy with the rule at five years.

“As it stands at the moment, it is three years. Gus [Agustín Pichot] has a view, other unions also have a view. He has pronounced his view which is fair enough.”

World Rugby has not indicated any timeframe for the return of a verdict from its new working group, but many in the game will welcome this latest review of Regulation 8.

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