25% of players at the 2019 Rugby World Cup were born in 3 countries. Rugby’s relaxed rules regarding players nationality is creating more controversy than ever, with 134 foreign-born players participating at the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
According to Rugby Betting site Betway, the 2019 Rugby World Cup will feature a Scotsman playing for Canada, a Canadian playing for Ireland, an Irishman playing for the USA, an American playing for England, an Englishman playing for Fiji, a Fijian playing for Australia, an Australian playing for Samoa, a Samoan playing for New Zealand and a New Zealander playing for just about everyone.
To many fans that may sound ridiculous, but switching allegiances has been an intrinsic part of international rugby union for years.
The ease with which players can move abroad, naturalise and begin representing a country to which they had no former ties is a loophole that has been exploited by most rugby-playing nations.
World Rugby rules and regulations stipulate that players only need to live in a country for 3 years before they become eligible to play for the national team.
By contrast, FIFA require footballers to live in a country for at least 5 years before they can take part in international football, with many associations enforcing additional restrictions on top of that.
Several high-profile players being omitted from the final squads for this year’s World Cup has highlighted the issue.
England, who are regularly accused of abusing eligibility laws, have selected scrum-half Willi Heinz, who was born and raised in New Zealand and has just three caps to his name.
Ireland have also been criticised for their decision to leave out 67-cap lock Devin Toner in favour of South African Jean Kleyn, who only qualified to play for them in August.
Things are, however, set to change, with World Rugby bringing their eligibility laws in line with FIFA by increasing the qualification period to 5 years at the end of 2020.
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