Once again the Northern Hemisphere have rounded the wagons and gone into defense mode. Besides virtually killing the game by their previous opposition to the experimental law variations (ELVs), the home nations have now voted against changing the eligibility rules.
Rugby is meant to be a game for all and is the one shining light for the Pacific Isles of Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji. It’s a pathway for many to achievement, ambition and fulfillment. Most players who make it from the Islands play a major role in building their local communities, families, and churches. It would be marvelous to see mature, seasoned All Blacks with Pacific Island roots having reached the peak of their careers then be allowed to play for second tier nations like these Islands as the eligibility rule change envisaged.
The proposal was for eligible players to represent two tier nations 12 months after they have last played for a tier one country. A mature realization as Gregor Paul, editor of NZ Rugby, puts it “that the modern world no longer exclusively produces straightforward nuclear families whose nationality is pure and obvious.” Many households are diverse and are mixed. In New Zealand there are men born in NZ to parents who were born in the Islands. They are New Zealanders but they are also Samoans, Fijians, and Tongans, and feel equally proud of both nations. Letting some of these old grizzled players like Jerry Collins and Chris Masoe return to the Islands once their All Black careers are over would be fantastic for the game’s development and for the health of these nations.
There can be no real downside to this. It would be good for the game, good for the players, good for spectators, good for the media and very good for the Islands.
Oh . . . perhaps it wouldn’t be good for the Northern Hemisphere nations who might find themselves getting beaten by Samoa, Tonga or Fiji. Surely that couldn’t be the reason for their opposition vote!