Following his excursion to La-La-land last month, the recent statement by Scottish Rugby Union CEO Mark Dodson that he would like to bring in more non-Scottish “project players” to plug gaps in the Scottish team ought to set alarm bells ringing for so-called ‘Tier 2’ nations.
The ramifications of this are obvious. What is to prevent Tier 1 nations from simply recruiting the best available young talent from “lesser” nations by offering young players development contracts in excess of the current 3 year eligibility period? It’s one thing to offer international rugby to southern hemisphere journeymen – it’s quite another to plunder the Tier 2 talent pool.
I have previously suggested that the IRB reviews the eligibility rules and considers adopting the system currently being operated by the England & Wales Cricket Board, namely that a player must complete a residence period of 7 consecutive years, unless he arrives in the country as an under-18 (where a 4 year period applies).
On reflection this still may not be enough. What is clear, however, is that if the IRB truly wants a global game then Tier 2 nations will need better protection against their players being poached by the big boys – otherwise the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ will simply continue to grow.