Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: Pichot takes aim at three-year residency rule

Agustin Pichot (the new Vice-Chairman of World Rugby). Photo / Getty Images
Agustin Pichot (the new Vice-Chairman of World Rugby). Photo / Getty Images

It took former Pumas halfback Agustin Pichot all of one minute in his new role as deputy chairman of World Rugby to make it clear he is ready to lance the game's festering sores.

A ball of energy and tactical smarts as a player, Pichot is bringing the same qualities to the post he assumed early last week and has the three-year residency rule in his sights.

Eligibility has been an issue World Rugby has blissfully ignored for the past decade. The attitude has seemingly been the whole business was fixed in 2000 when the rules were changed after the Grannygate scandal that saw Shane Howarth and Brent Sinkinson play for Wales. That episode led to World Rugby no longer allowing players to represent two nations and for documentation to be provided when claiming eligibility based on a grandparent's birthplace.

Since then, the issue has largely been ignored, despite the targeted recruitment of players by national unions. The Irish Rugby Union in particular have been advocates of signing "development" players. Typically, it will work with a club to sign an overseas player, who will use the three-year residency rule to become eligible to play for the national team.

Former Blues player Jared Payne and former Chiefs player Bundee Aki have gone down this path, and the former is now an integral part of the Irish team. Scotland, too, have successfully recruited South Africans WP Nel and Josh Strauss this way and it's believed they tried to lure former Hurricanes fullback Andre Taylor.

The argument against these transfers is that it cheapens test jerseys by making them tradeable commodities and critics of the three-year residency rule say it's not long enough.

The World Cup was littered with players representing their country of residence rather than birth and this was not to Pichot's liking.

"It should be for life, like in football," Pichot said in his first interview. "I would understand a five-year [qualification period] and I think that will be on the agenda in the next six months. As a cultural thing, as an inspiration to new kids, I think having on your team players who have not lived [for long] in the country they are [representing] I think it's not right."

He'd like to extend the residency requirement to five years and hoped that would deter Tier One nations from picking up players who were eligible for Tier Two nations.

- NZ Herald

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