Argentina Pumas coach Daniel Hourcade has urged World Rugby to end "misuse" of the residency rule that allows northern hemisphere Test nations to naturalise overseas-born stars.

The sport's governing body has launched a review into the three-year residency qualification period for a nation to select a player born abroad. Argentina were the only nation at last year's World Cup without any foreign-born players in their squad.

World Rugby's new vice-president and the former Argentina scrum-half Agustín Pichot has been a vocal supporter of extending the residency eligibility period to five years - and the Pumas coach Hourcade endorses those views.

"I agree with him, with Gus [Pichot], we don't suffer that situation so it's difficult to talk about it for us, because we never have players born in other countries in our team," said Hourcade. "But if players qualify on residency there should be a strong relation between the player and the country.


"There should not be any misuse by the country for their own advantage. We have seen that from one World Cup to another World Cup, players representing different countries. But I think they have to show there is a strong relation between that player and that country to be selected.

"It's difficult to understand that some countries with one million players have to go after players from other countries. New Zealand represent four countries."

At the 2015 World Cup 135 players represented nations other than the country of their birth, almost 22% of the players in the competition.

All the home nations have profited from the current residency rules, with Ireland perhaps the most open about identifying project players for their four provinces.

Hourcade believes extending the residency period to five years could also stop Argentina losing young stars to other nations. Sergio Parisse was born in Argentina but ended up scaling the world game's heights with Italy, but Hourcade believes the Pumas have plenty of plans in place to keep their top stars on home soil.

Argentina consider only players with their Super Rugby franchise the Jaguares for Test selection, effectively ignoring several high-profile stars plying their club trade in Europe.
Hourcade said Argentina also harbour the long-term goal of securing a second Super Rugby franchise.

"It's happened to us, it's happened to us before, with Italy," said Hourcade of Argentina losing potential Pumas players in the past. "But on the other hand we weren't able to offer anything to them back then. We didn't have a good tournament in relation to the country.

"But now we have the Rugby Championship, the Jaguares franchise, a good tournament where they can play. And we are thinking about having another franchise in the future. If we can get it or not is another matter, but that's the idea."

With a healthy crowd in excess of 48,000 turning up at Twickenham in Argentina's "home" Rugby Championship match against Australia last weekend, the Pumas' profile is also rising abroad.

Confirmation Argentina are looking to bid to host the 2027 Rugby World Cup is another boost for the game.

Argentina would also love, at some stage, to welcome the British and Irish Lions to Buenos Aires, Tucuman, Rosario, Salta and beyond. Pumas flanker Pablo Matera, for one, reckons the prospect would attract travelling fans as well as players: "I think the Lions would have more chance to win against us than against New Zealand."

There is also the political calculation that requires the Pumas, for now, to operate without their best European-based players, such as Racing 92's Juan Imhoff and Leicester's Marcos Ayerza.

"It is a political decision but we support it," says Hourcade, preferring to dwell on the future benefits of exposing home-based players to the game's ultimate examinations.
The end goal is clear enough: Argentina do not just want to be makeweights, propping up the Rugby Championship, winning the odd game here and there.

"This is the first year we have set ourselves specific objectives," Matera says. "We wanted to win two games in the Rugby Championship. We also wanted to win three of our four autumn games. In November we want to be in the top eight in the world rankings to have a better chance of a good group at the 2019 World Cup. That's our last objective: to play in the World Cup final. We're setting our self little objectives now to help us achieve that."

With emerging young figureheads like the bullocking Matera and the wildly promising No8 Facundo Isa, there is clear hope of growth from a group who earned global admiration for their freewheeling rugby en route to last year's World Cup semi-final, where they lost 29-15 to the Wallabies. In time Argentina may follow Australia's example and give selectorial exemptions to Pumas with a high number of caps plying their trade in Europe.

"I think Argentina is going to do that in the future but I don't know," Matera says.
"We have lost some players because they have stayed in Europe. Now we have the chance to play in a really good tournament at home but playing in Europe is still a real interest for players."

He is honest enough to concede that choosing between the Pumas and a juicy European club contract remains "very difficult" for all. "I have chosen to play for Argentina and in Super Rugby because playing internationally is the best level a player can play at. But we're always watching what's happening in Europe and thinking it could be good as well."

The flip side is the chance to elevate rugby in South America to a new level, building on the promising foundations of last year's World Cup, when football was briefly shoved out of the limelight.

"Rugby in Argentina is getting really popular," Matera says. "There are lots more young kids starting to play rugby and looking for a club and I think that is because of the World Cup. When I first started playing it was after the 2007 World Cup when we were third in the world. Now we have more games at home because of Super Rugby, with big teams coming to play in Argentina. It's making more people interested in rugby."

- London Telegraph