Rugby residency ruins the game

Towards the end of last season, Johnny McNicholl asked himself a rhetorical question: “Am I Welsh? It’s a tough question to answer. I don’t know.”

Well, the Scarlet Kiwi appears to know now. As soon as the World Cup is consigned to history, he will become one of the last under the old rules to travel halfway around the planet in search of a national identity, perhaps the very last.

The three-year residential rule to make those born in one country eligible to play for another is to be increased to five from next year. A classic example of Nero fiddling while Rome went to blazes, World Rugby’s failure to take more decisive action sooner has turned the international game into “a joke”.

The description comes from the only player to captain his country and run a World Cup as tournament director, the Welshman Paul Thorburn, best remembered for launching the longest penalty goal in the old Five Nations, one that travelled more than 72 yards between the Scottish posts.

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