World Rugby delays change in eligibility rule

Edinburgh prop Pierre Schoeman could be eligible for Scotland sooner than expected after reports that World Rugby prolonged the three-year residency rule due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

World Rugby had voted to increase the residency period to qualify to play for a country from three years to five – or as the governing body put it, 60 months – back in May 2017. Essentially, the rule allows a player to qualify to represent a country as long as he or she has not played for the designated ‘senior’ team of his country of birth.

However, there are reports that the original cut-off date for the old residency rule – marked for 31 December 2020 – has now been pushed back by a year to 31 December 2021.

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This could be a massive boost for players such as Schoeman, who has outlined his ambition to play for Scotland. Given that the former Junior Springbok joined Edinburgh from the Vodacom Bulls in 2018, he would only have been eligible to play for Scotland in 2023 under the new residency rules.

However, the 26-year-old, who was named Edinburgh’s Best Newcomer and Player of the Year after his first season with the club, could now qualify to play for Scotland as early as next year. A place in the British & Irish Lions squad for next year’s tour of South Africa will still be tough for Schoeman to achieve as he would only qualify to play halfway through the tour.

‘The World Rugby executive committee approved an adjustment to regulation eight [eligibility] in July to combat the exceptional disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic on the necessary residency criteria for players wishing to qualify for a national union,’ a World Rugby spokesperson told the Telegraph.

‘Currently, the residency criteria is due to increase from 36 months to 60 months on December 31, 2020. In order to be eligible on that basis, players must meet the residency requirement and have represented their union before the cut-off date.

‘In light of the exceptional circumstances caused by the ongoing pandemic, the executive committee, having consulted with unions and international rugby players, determined it was appropriate the extend the 36-month residency requirement set out in regulation eight to December 31, 2021.

‘Exco confirmed that a player must meet both the 36-month residency requirement and have represented the union on or before December 31, 2021, otherwise the player will fall under the 60-month rule.’

Schoeman would not be the only South African to be a new call-up to the Scotland squad under the old rule as Edinburgh teammate and wing Duhan van der Merwe had already qualified to play for the Six Nations side in their July internationals this year.

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