Agustin Pichot insists that the residency rules allowing foreign players to represent different countries must be changed, however, the new vice-chairman of World Rugby will face stern opposition to do so.
Ireland have already profited from the regulation that allows uncapped players to qualify for a different country after three years of residence with CJ Stander (South Africa) and Jared Payne (New Zealand) anchoring Joe Schmidt’s team in the Six Nations while Connacht centre Bundee Aki qualifies in November 2018.
However, many observers believe that the three-year term for foreign-born players is not enough and Pichot, the former Argentina scrum-half, believes there is a fundamental issue with the regulations. “We need to change it. Somebody will kill me [for saying it], but we need to change it. This is my personal opinion: it’s wrong,” Pichot said. “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.
“When you have on your team all players who haven’t lived in the country that they represent, it’s not great. [Taking a player] from an academy in Tonga and putting him to play in an Ireland shirt, I’m against it, it’s not right.”
Since 2011 Ireland have capped 11 players who were brought up outside of the country while the recent World Cup saw 135 players represent nations they were not born in. However, World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper said that the governing body’s council decided to shelve any review of the regulations back in October.
“It was discussed and it was decided that it would remain as is for the moment. There didn’t seem to be any appetite to change that. There was a consultation with the unions and at this stage it’s the status quo in that area,” Gosper said.
Pichot and Gosper were both present in Dublin yesterday as World Rugby confirmed that Bill Beaumont, the former England and Lions second row, would become the organisation’s new chairman.
Top of the agenda for Beaumont and Pichot, his vice chairman, will be to help negotiate an agreement between the northern and southern hemispheres over a unified global calendar for the sport for 2019 and beyond. Moving the Six Nations into April and May has been mooted, and although Beaumont is open to the idea, he believes that the possibility of merging the summer and autumn test windows could help solve some of the issues at present.
“For me, personally, it would be around the June/July time [to make changes]. That would be the area that you could probably look at without tearing everything up,” Beaumont said.
“There are ideas that you move the other way, that you move June [internationals] into October and you have a October-November [international] window but then you run into the problems that the clubs and the provinces are all at the start of their season.”
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