THE VIEW FROM DOWN UNDER: Why International sides are just clubs on a global scale

VFDUOur Aussie correspondent watched the Six Nations.  He evidently didn’t like it.  Why?  Well as it turns out he’s got a problem with how ‘international’ our internationals have become…

So Ireland have won the Six Nations.  Well done to them.  At least it wasn’t another gloating Welsh win or (even worse) a greater gloating English win.  But watching those 15 games of ‘mud-ball’ that you northern hemisphere blokes play, I got increasingly frustrated.  Not just with the standard of play (that’s always been terrible) but by a worrying trend that effects both the northern and southern hemisphere games alike.

Let me explain…earlier this year, we witnessed Australia flogging the English cricket team 5 – 0.  Now you might have been mistaken for identifying that England side as a ‘World XI’.  The jokes started before the Ashes series began: an English team containing South Africans, New Zealanders, Irish, and Zimbabweans. But this is not a new phenomenon: rugby union has had ‘non-countrymen’ playing for international teams for many years now (usually using ‘the grandparent rule’ to receive the green light to play for another country other than that of their birth). Hence I have to ask when you support your country are you just supporting another club?

In 1998 Graham Henry sounded the horn to all those rugby players who had a parent or grandparent born in Wales to get in touch (sometimes they didn’t have even that but played anyway).  The phone call went something like ‘if you’ve got a link here you can have a game for Wales because this current lot are a bloody shambles’. I have to admit even I applied in the hope of being the Welsh mascot (e.g. walking the touchlines ‘assisting’ the assistant referee with any decisions they needed to make). Since then the Kiwis, English and even good ol’ Australia have been at the practice of bagging the best overseas players on lineage or residency rules.  But here’s another question for you:  if the IRB made it a rule that you could only play for the country you were born in, wouldn’t Samoa, Fiji and Tonga become powerhouses in the world game?

To illustrate my point further (are you still there? You bloody should be! This is gold!) let’s have a look at the current Aussie and Welsh sides. We’ll use the line-ups that played in the last test of 2013 (yes the one that walked over Wales in Cardiff).

  1. James Slipper (born Queensland, Australia)
  2. Stephen Moore (born Khamis Mushait, Saudi Arabia)
  3. Sekope Kepu (born New South Wales, Australia)
  4. Rob Simmons (born Queensland, Australia)
  5. James Horwill (born Queensland, Australia)
  6. Scott Fardy (born New South Wales, Australia)
  7. Michael Hooper (born New South Wales, Australia)
  8. Ben Mowen (born Queensland, Australia)
  9. Will Genia (born Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea)
  10. Quade Cooper (born Auckland, New Zealand)
  11. Nick Cummins (born New South Wales, Australia)
  12. Christian Leali’ifano ( born Auckland, New Zealand)
  13. Adam Ashley-Cooper (born New South Wales, Australia)
  14. Joe Tomane (born Palmerton North, New Zealand)
  15. Israel Folau (born New South Wales, Australia)
  16. Tatafu Polota-Nau (born New South Wales, Australia)
  17. Benn Robinson (born New South Wales, Australia)
  18. Ben Alexander (born New South Wales, Australia)
  19. Kane Douglas (born New South Wales, Austrtalia)
  20. Dave Dennis (born New South Wales, Australia)
  21. Nic White (born New South Wales, Australia)
  22. Mike Harris (born North Harbour, New Zealand)
  23. Bernard Foley (born New South Wales, Australia)

Hence in that last Wallabies test, 6 players were not born in Australia. Now let us look at their opponents that day Wales, where 5 were born outside the principality:

  1. Gethin Jenkins (born Wales)
  2. Richard Hibbard (born Wales)
  3. Rhodri Jones (born Wales)
  4. Alun-Wyn Jones (born Wales)
  5. Ian Evans (born South Africa)
  6. Dan Lydiate (born England)
  7. Sam Warburton (born Wales)
  8. Toby Faletau (born Tonga)
  9. Mike Phillips (born Wales)
  10. Dan Biggar (born Wales)
  11. George North (born England)
  12. Scott Williams (born Wales)
  13. Owen Williams (born Wales)
  14. Alex Cuthbert (born England)
  15. Leigh Halfpenny (born Wales)
  16. Ken Owens (born Wales)
  17. Ryan Bevington (born Wales)
  18. Samson Lee (born Wales)
  19. Ryan Jones (born Wales)
  20. Justin Tipuric (born Wales)
  21. Rhodri Williams (born Wales)
  22. Rhys Priestland (born Wales)
  23. Liam Williams (born Wales)

So for the good of the global game, the time has come to scrap the clause of using parents or grandparents or residency clauses to qualify for international sides. Rugby is a world game and its not fair that to allow a player who gets a long term contract in another country while earning the big bucks to eventually play international rugby for that country.  The shirt should mean more than that.  Neither is it fair to qualify because somewhere down the family tree there’s a tenuous link.  There is always the line ‘oh he moved when he was only 2 or 3’.  Well so what?

Personally I want to support the national rugby union side of Australia, not a club team.

I’m off for a tinnie.

John Aussie

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