IRB won’t change residency rules

The IRB will not alter the three-year residency qualification period that allows players to relocate across the globe and then launch international careers.

CEO Brett Gosper said on Tuesday they had no plans to toughen up rules in a bid to prevent Pacific Island nations losing star players.

As an example, London Wasps No 8 Nathan Hughes will be eligible to represent England, Fiji or Samoa if he remains in the Premiership for two more years under current residency rules.

Speaking at a news conference in London to mark 500 days to the 2015 World Cup in England, Gosper said the status quo would remain in place. The Australian administrator said the decision over whether to put patriotism over a potentially more lucrative professional career in a country outside a player's place of birth had ultimately to remain with individuals.

'These aren't issues that we can really look at, there are huge market forces in play in both hemispheres, and players have got to be able to ply their trade where they want to ply their trade,' said Gosper. 'We obviously don't want to see a concentration of players in one or two markets, we like the fact there's a good even competition throughout the world. So we like that balance.

'But there's little we can do about it from an IRB perspective. I think the lure of international rugby still has a very strong hold on the top players. The view is the capture ages are pretty high, so players at that stage should know what the implications of their choices are.'

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen recently criticised the practice of young players seeking to qualify for international recognition in Europe, after 24-year-old Chiefs centre Bundee Aki signed a three-year deal to join Connacht with a view to representing Ireland at Test level. The 24-year-old has made no secret he will aim to complete residency requirements and chase an international career with Ireland, despite at times pushing the fringes of the All Blacks set-up.

Gosper added that in circumstances where Pacific Island players at European clubs remained loyal to their country of of origin, then there were benefits for all concerned.

'Some of these players playing outside of their country is adding to the competitiveness of those nations. Fijians, Tongans, Samoans and so on are gaining the skills and traits to play at the top level from the clubs they're playing at as well.'

Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

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