WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) " World Rugby has moved to substantially tighten the criteria under which a player from one country can qualify to play for another, extending the required period of elibility from three to five years.
In a move strongly driven by vice president Agustin Pichot of Argentina, the World Rugby Council meeting in Japan unanimously approved the changes saying they are necessary to protect the "integrity and sanctity of international rugby."
World Rugby said in a statement Wednesday the change to its Regulation 8, governing the eligibility period, would ensure that a player hoping to change allegiance from one nation to another would have "a genuine, close, credible and established link with the nation of representation."
The residency requirement which must be completed before a player can play internationally for an adopted nation will be extended from 36 to 60 months from the end of 2020. A new criteria which allows players with 10 years cumulative residency to play for their adopted nation has been added and rules have been changed around the eligibility of players who have represented one country at Sevens.
World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont hailed the moves as a "landmark decision."
"This reform of Regulation 8 governing eligibility is an important and necessary step to protecting the integrity and credibility of international rugby," Beaumont said. "This extension to the residency period within a forward-thinking reform package will ensure a close, credible and established link between a union and players, which is good for rugby and good for fans."
Pichot, who saw countries such as England quickly absorbing foreign-born players into their national teams and consequently growing in strength, said the Council's decision was "an historic moment for the sport and a great step towards protecting the integrity, ethos and stature of international rugby.
"National team representation is the reward for devoting your career, your rugby life, to your nation and these amendments will ensure that the international arena is full of players devoted to their nation, who got there on merit."
World Rugby said the group established to review Regulation 8 had determined it "was not in step with the modern game, did not provide an adequate framework to protect the integrity of the international game and did not provide a deterrent to player drain from emerging rugby nations."
The group found that developing rugby nations, especially those in the Pacific, were increasingly losing players to top-tier nations where they could play at test level after only three years. New Zealand and Australia are also battling an increasing loss of players to wealthy clubs in Britain and Europe where some go on to play internationally.
This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings