New Zealand-born Jared Payne will shortly board a plane with his British and Irish Lions teammates and head to take on the men in black.

Thirty-six-test Irish lock Neil Francis has criticised Payne's selection.

The New Zealand public has also slammed the Lions for selecting the former Northland captain, who hails from Tauranga but got his rugby break in Northland.

Francis was spewing over the selection of Payne and South African flanker CJ Stander for the tour, launching into a tirade in his Irish Independent column.


He labelled the pair "tourists and nation-hoppers", saying "your heritage and the nationhood of this island cannot be bartered for just because the governing body of our sport did not move quickly enough to close off the completely inadequate 36-month residency rule."

Payne has an Irish fiancee, a child born in Ireland and for what it's worth, a dog from Ireland. His Belfast stay has been the longest he has been in one place. That all sounds pretty Irish.

There is nothing wrong with the selection. In fact, for any New Zealander to be against the move is more than a touch hypocritical.

One comment that stood out was about whether Payne and Stander were legitimately Irish.

"Their rugby integrity is undoubted. Nobody question their commitment. The issue is they are not Irish."

You just have to look at comments on any story surrounding Payne, Quade Cooper or England's Dylan Hartley (why the second best hooker wasn't selected for the Lions tour defies any logic) and the same narrative prevails.

"They're stealing our players," say the critics.

These people conveniently forget how the All Blacks have had 32 players born in the Pacific Islands pull on the iconic strip.

Some have been major parts of successful squads. Joe Rokocoko (Nadi, Fiji), Rodney So'oialo (Moto'otua, Samoa), Olo Brown (Apia, Samoa) and Jerome Kaino (Tutuila, American Samoa) have all churned out at least 50 tests.

Quade Cooper of the Australian Wallabies was born in New Zealand and has family ties to Northland.
Quade Cooper of the Australian Wallabies was born in New Zealand and has family ties to Northland.

Add to that Mils Muliaina, one of the finest fullbacks to ever play the code, and you've got the makings of some pretty scary Pacific Island teams had they not been swayed by the allure of the silver fern.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with those players representing New Zealand, but somehow it's an issue when Payne, Cooper and Hartley play for their adopted nations.

They've passed all eligibility criteria - something that is about to be changed - so what's the issue?

The big players in international rugby all have a history of pilfering talent, particularly from the Pacific nations. There aren't many sides without a smattering of talent from the islands somewhere in there.

Even now the All Blacks have Waisake Naholo (for some reason) on the wing and Kaino in the loose.

The likes of Sitiveni Sivivatu, Manu Tuilagi, Billy Vunipola and Lote Tuqiri haven't played for their birth countries and that is absolutely fine.

Answer this: what exactly can be done about it anyway? Do we have a blanket rule saying you can only play for the country you're born in?

That would help out the Pacific nations but because it would be a detriment to the likes of New Zealand and England, it won't happen.