Gregor Townsend has defended Scotland’s use of the residency rule following his selection of uncapped South African Jaco van der Walt in their squad for Saturday’s Test against Ireland.
Van der Walt will make his Test debut for his adopted country in Dublin this week having completed the three-year eligibility qualification on 16 November.
The selection of the 26-year-old at flyhalf brings the tally of South Africans in the Scottish match-day squad to four, with wing Duhan van der Merwe and props Oli Kebble and WP Nel also set for duty.
The selection of foreign players has caused a bit of an uproar, with many believing it sets back homegrown players. But Townsend has hit back, saying his job is to pick the best available players even if that means they are from foreign countries.
‘Jaco’s been playing for Edinburgh the last three years and his play and performances have earned him the right to be considered,’ said Townsend. ‘This will be our fifth stand-off – Finn, Adam, Duncan all came the Scottish system which is important, that players can see they can come through the system and play for Scotland. They’re great role models for young players.
‘The way Jaco has integrated into Edinburgh and our group, he’s a very humble and hard-working player, puts his body on the line and he’s a great defender. And his great grandfather is from Aberdeen, so there is a Scottish connection. But that’s not necessary, we know the rules that other countries as well as ourselves have used.
‘It’s up to those players that get capped through those residency mechanisms – they make a huge effort to play for that country. That’s what we’ve seen with Duhan and Oli, and we’ve seen in the past from WP Nel and Sam Johnson.
‘The fact that someone is playing because he played all his life in Scotland or because his parents were Scottish, his grandparents were Scottish, because he was brought up somewhere and comes through residency does not come into selection thoughts.
‘Plans change when you have injuries, we have two stand-offs injured, but it was certainly the plan to get him involved. His performances have earned that right, and we were aware he was eligible now, so let’s get him involved in international rugby and see how he does as soon as possible.’
Photo: Bruce White / SNS Group