Friday, January 22, 2010

Pacific Rugby and Northern Hemisphere Wisdom

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!


John said...

Right on Kevin. The lack of foresight and innovation on the part of rugby's powers that be is a travesty. Australia playing in their second consecutive football world cup, New Zealand there again after a long absence, and all hosted in South Africa. If the IRB keep up their game there won't be any southern hemisphere rugby left to worry about because the young Dan Carters and Matt Giteaus of the Southern Hemi will all be playing the beautiful game!

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree a little with you Kevin. I believe the Gin & Tonic Brigade's quashing of the ELVs was a good thing. Every season the Laws of Rugby change or are modified. Do they constantly make changes to the laws of football (soccer) & chess or even Monopoly? If young players had constant Laws the playing numbers would increase and casual spectators would take to the game easier. How many players know all the Laws anyway? And are those changing the Laws actually playing at grassroots level?
Yes, allowing players to play for a lower tier nation would benefit the international standard of Rugby. Players may have multiple national heritage so why not permit them to utilise that? Many players also play 2nd or 3rd fiddle to a player that plays 100 Tests. The other players may be excellent in their position but never realise their full potential due to not playing constantly at the top level. Perhaps a residency clause for those players could enhance local competitions instead of flying in to play a Test match from lucrative club commitments.
Cheers for 2010

Anonymous said...


I strongly disagree with your thoughts regarding cross-nationalism eligibility. The greatest benefactors of this plan would be New Zealand and Australia.

The most likely scenario is a player with Polynesian heritage and a link to NZ or Aus pursuing a cap first with the All Blacks or Wallabies and then using your plan as insurance to represnt Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, etc.

With the increase of signings of Fijians, Samoans and Tongans in the Top 14, Guinness Premiership, the Magners League, and Super 14 those countries' players are receiving the seasoning and experience to help elevate the national playing standards for their respective countries. As the 2007 World Cup showed by the performances of Tonga and Fiji, the improvement of the Polynesian player has been immense.

Your strategy was more effective prior to the advent of professionalism, but now it is antiquated and out of date. Your thinking should be less about dual nationalism and more about increasing funding for the national rugby unions for Fiji, Tonga and Samoa.