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Shingler selection has Welsh and Scots in a twist

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John Beattie | 21:19 UK time, Thursday, 12 January 2012

What do you make of the Steven Shingler case? Are you glad this is happening now and we shall have a precedent?

The IRB say the fly-half is ineligible to play for Scotland and that he is tied to Wales, having played for their Under 20s - the stepping stone to the senior side.

Shingler, alarmingly, is on tape and on the BBC Sport website expressing his desire to play for Wales, although he has had an apparent change of heart since that interview.

I am so glad we are about to get a ruling on this. I just don't see it as right that you play age group rugby for one country and then change allegiance unless you live in your new country unless... Well, read on.

Freshly-selected England squad member Lee Dickson is a case in point as he played for Scottish age group teams but was always dual qualified; plays for Northampton and lives in England.

England and Scotland both have 'A' teams as well, so playing for our Under 20 team isn't as near the "top table".

The next step? Scotland and Wales can now enter into a formal process, or, as the IRB put it: "The SRU and WRU may wish the IRB Regulations Committee to consider this matter formally in accordance with IRB Regulation Two. The Unions are aware of the requirements of such a review."

London Irish fly-half Steven Shingler

Should Shingler be able to switch allegiance to Scotland? (pic: Getty Images)

I never liked this case from the moment it started. The whole element of dual-qualification is a painful one.

The Welsh are saying Shingler has panicked as he wasn't going to get an immediate game due to their strength in depth.

Scotland, so the argument proposed in Wales goes, was his second option but much more gratifying in the short term.

We Scots claimed him as one of ours and if ever a magician produced a bigger rabbit out of a hat, well, it was never caught on camera.

He, Shingler, has now said how much he wants to play for us and the SRU want to support him in that.

The search for talent from other countries is often unseemly and I don't agree with scouring the world for players as it makes a mockery of our production system. If it is to happen, then I'd rather we left it to others.

I never agreed with the thought that putting fifteen chimps in Scottish jerseys was fine as long as they were winning.

Let the Kiwis and Aussies offer scholarships to Samoan, Tongan and Fijiian kids and we can keep our hands off a Welsh production line.

The trouble is, of course, that nothing in the world is sharp in focus and according to the primary principle of qualification - parentage - Steven Shingler qualifies to play for Scotland, and, er Wales too.

On that point we can't argue. There is no problem here. Morally and legally the player can choose.

Where the murkiness comes is that my country, Scotland, will either have approached him or have been approached by him and at no time alerted the Welsh as to what we were up to while in full knowledge that Shingler had played for Wales Under 20s.

Perhaps it was just a straight decision with a quick look at the family bloodline but I rather suspect someone at Murrayfield must have known it would cause a problem.

The world is changing. Pacific island families make their way across Australasia and settle to new lives, which is why we see multi-racial Australian and New Zealand teams, and quite right too.

Manu Tuilagi qualifies for England through residency, Tim Visser will qualify for Scotland by the same route, but both Scotland (David Hilton) and Wales (Shane Howarth) have already fielded players who weren't eligible to play in any shape or form.

I can see both sides of the Shingler case, but I agree with the IRB on this one. He primarily qualifies for Wales.

So what would be a fair outcome? When Wales and Scotland meet with the IRB, the logical decision should be that Scotland have to formally apply for the release of Shingler, with the player's full backing, and then, if the Welsh agree, he becomes Scottish-qualified.

I actually think that the Welsh would agree to that request.

And that rule should apply worldwide for every further case like this. That's the step that has to be taken.

What do you think?


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  • Comment number 1.

    In a world where Kevin Pietersen plays cricket for England, Mo Farrah runs for Great Britain and Manu Tuillagi, Ricki Flutey and Matt Stevens wear the Red Rose, Cockbain has worn the feathers and Dan Parks sounds might er.. Australian it'd be a mighty high horse for anyone in the U.K to fall off of.

    Personally I don't like sporting tourists but recognise that I'm fighting a losing battle. What's at issue here is the inconsistency in international setups. What's to stop anyone claiming that their under 11 side is a stepping stone and blah? If Wales were New Zealand England would have lost the services of Martin Johnson.

    What is required for young players is absolute clarity prior to playing. That leads to fairness and consistency. The fact there is a case to answer here at all indicates that's not the case.

  • Comment number 2.

    International eligibility is completely farcical. A lad with a Scottish Mum and English dad who represents Wales at U20 level is then tied to that country yet several of the English squad (and come June Tim Visser too) are able to represent a nation that they have no blood link to having simply lived in that country for 3 years.

    The IRB have muddied the waters by writing bizarre rules to pacify the leading nations of World rugby. The concept should be simple IMO, you need a family tie (back as far as grandparents) to represent a country and only a full cap should tie any players with dual nationality to any specific nation.

  • Comment number 3.

    John -you say
    "I can see both sides of the Shingler case, but I agree with the IRB on this one. He primarily qualifies for Wales."
    What does "He primarily qualifies for Wales" mean?
    The facts seem to be that he was eligible for Wales, Scotland and England but he then played for Wales U20s in a game which officially tied him to Wales and made him unable to represent anybody else, end of story.
    It seems to me that both he and the SRU have been incredibly stupid over this.
    I don't know where this idea of signing or not signing a declaration committing himself toWales came from. It seems obvious that by just playing in the U-20 match it would commit him to Wales. And the WRU even told him that before the game. For the SRU to just use this "he didn't sign a declaration" argument seems incredibly naive on its part. They should have checked and double checked before announcing him in the squad.
    I don't know whether the WRU can "release" him somehow but it would seem unlikely as there would then be no point to the eligibility rules.
    Anyway whatever happens the SRU look silly but I'm sure it will all be forgotten if the home teamwins at Murrayfield on Feb 4th.

  • Comment number 4.

    Good blog John. The IRB has made a good start, just maybe too little too late.

    International sport is becoming a farce. Countries are increasingly behaving like rich football or rugby club sides and bending the rules to breaking point. Many just ignore the rules and "buy" the allegiance of sportsmen either by offering huge sums of money directly or indirectly by offering higher salary, benefits and support packages than the original country was able to offer. These are transfers by any other name. Scotland lost Peter Nichol to England because he was offered more "suppport" by England. Many African athletes have been lured away by huge packages. Strangely, I don't know of any "transfer" that has been won by the country with less funds. If this doesn't stop we might as well forget about international sport.

  • Comment number 5.

    As a proud Welshman I am sorry to see Steve Shingler in this position, he seems to lurch about hotheadedly expecting it all to be given to him rather than earning the right. He was lauded last year as the next big thing at 10 in Wales and even had his name on the back of future 10 shirt in the S4C ad campaign, he certainly has the potential.

    He left the Scarlets to play for London Irish as he was third choice, no problem but surely another Welsh club would have been preferred if he want to get seen by the selectors.

    He was still thinking of Wales a few months ago when he said he wanted to prove himself to the Welsh selectors when London Irish played the Blues in the Heineken Cup. He proved himself by making a stupid tackle and got a red card.

    The Wales 10 shirt will be fiercely competed over the coming years with both Biggar and Priestland on the scene along with Tovey and another young talent, Matthew Morgan in the mix. Playing in England will not help his cause for selection as I doubt he will have a suitable release clause which will satisfy Warren Gatland.

    I have no objection to him playing for Scotland as he is qualified through his Mother, although it will be a loss for Wales. I personally feel though he is choosing Scotland because he wants top rugby and Wales are not offering at the moment. His heart says Wales and as such he should not put himself through this wringer, he should wait and earn the call up.

    It is a similar case to Ben Morgan at the Scarlets who has said his heart is with England, I feel that if England had not offered this year then he may have chosen Wales, and even though he would have given 100% he would have not been playing for his country of choice.

  • Comment number 6.

    Got to disagree with you on this one John. Nationality is something people feel, and shouldn't be constrained by where the player has grown up. Just because Shingler got the chance to play age group rugby for Wales, does not necessarily mean he feels Welsh (despite us knowing what he told the BBC).

    The best example I can think of here is Martin Johnson, who clearly relished the idea of playing for New Zealand age groups, but nevertheless was a proud Englishman.

    I think the IRB need to readdress at what stage players are locked in to one country, and presonally, I think that the U20s is too soon. For a player to turn down a call up at that age means they would forego a massive boost to their CV. How was Shingler turn that down? As he knew, it was the best step to becoming a top professional.

  • Comment number 7.

    The long term implication is that boys will be less likely to play for Wales U-20s in future if they are qualified to play elsewhere. Yet again the WRU have shot themselves in the foot and are no doubt reloading as we speak.

    Long term I would like to see players allowed to make one change. Too many countries are now giving players a single cap with the sole intention of not letting them play elsewhere. If a player has less than, say, 10 caps (which isn't even an international year) then let him make a change. However, he can only change once. It's time for rugby to regain the moral high ground.

  • Comment number 8.

    Good blog John but I tend to disagree.

    At an early age, people often make rash decisions that they may later regret. Ryan Giggs played school boy football for England before choosing Wales and only he knows which path was the right one.

    We should also bear in mind that in accepting the likes of Farrah, who fled his country as a child under threat and Basil D'olivera whose 'defection' was enforced by Apartheid rule, the UK's willingness to blur the lines of nationality can often bring about very positive outcomes.

    As we know, precociously talented children often have overbearing parents who may push them one way or another and it is only as they grow that the individual can make their own decision.

    Shingler is a young man with a English father and scottish mother but only he can say which nationality he truly feels. Maybe it is pragmatism on his part with Priestland, Hook, Jones, Biggar and maybe even Henson ahead of him now but he should be able to make his own choice. Youth teams and second strings are an opportunity to grow and learn, not a commitment for life, we all make the occasional wrong choices at this stage.

    It is unfair to compare the likes of Shingler and Tuilagi who are very young and still establishing their identities with the likes of Hape and Flutey who are slightly more mercenary in pledging their allegiance at a later point in life.

    He may make a choice based on not getting a game right now but if he plays for Scotland for the next 10 years I have no doubt he will give the nation his all and proudly represent his mothers lineage. What is more, maybe the international rugby scene may get to see a talent that deserves a bigger stage than he might get if we held him to a decision that he may have initially made before he was old enough to vote!

    Give him and all youngsters a chance by allowing them up to the age of say 23 to nail their colours to mast and acknowledge the fact that some of us grow up as truly British and would love to represent any part of this country at the highest level.

  • Comment number 9.

    good on you John for bringing this out in the open......lets open this wide open if you had the chance lets say to play for New Zealand thro parentage would you take it? knowing also you were well down the pecking order for Scotland??!! be honest now!! would you? of course you would.................. hats off to steve he saw one door closing and he saw another opening and he took it...its not his fault his mother is Scottish he doesn't pick where his parents are born......he has multiple nationalites to pick from (lucky kid or unlucky as this case maybe) he wants to play 6N rugby let him get on with it and if its Scotland so be it best of luck to him...

  • Comment number 10.

    This is an interesting debate. GOod to see people looking at it logically.
    The rules need to be clear. At a certain point you should be tied to a country. That should be a full cap. I don't think you should be allowed to then change, even once.

    The fact is we live in a world where what country you come from or what nationality you are gets blurred. IF you have two Indian parents, but have lived all your life in Scotland, why can't you play for Scotland or India? You may have an Indian heritage, but everything you know is Scottish. It should be the players choice. At U20s it maybe too early. Whats to stop a 17 year old being selected for the Indian team only later to regard himself as more scottish and realise he actually has a chance of playing competative rugby.

    It seems though that Shingler has sided with Wales. Maybe this proves my point that U20s is too early, really they are still children at that age, still finding out who they are. Liklihood is they will take the best option at that time but may look back and regret it.

    Once a decision is made it should be final, representing a country is the highest honour, not to be taken lightly. Allowing a change would ease off the pressure of having to be the best, as you could just play somewhere else!

  • Comment number 11.

    All parties coming out of this poorly at the moment.

  • Comment number 12.

    Maybe I have missed something here but surely the issue is that there is a difference in age group qualification! Surely each national age group should have the same qualification structure. If Wales cannot afford to have an 'a' team they should not be able to push the qualifications down to the next level. If they get an agreement from the irb that under20s is the level that nationality is decided it should be the same for all

  • Comment number 13.

    The rules are a total farce.

    I have no problem with that part of the rules which state that a player can qualify through parentage or residency, what I have a problem with is the rules relating to when a player has made am irrevocable choice.

    If I understand the blog correctly, in one year playing for Welsh U20s was not a final choice of nationality because Wales fielded an A side, and the following year because they had no A side playing for the U20s was a final choice of nationality.

    That rule is plain stupid. Suppose you have a talented young player who plays for 2 years in the U20s. When he is first selected it does not count as a final choice of nationality but 6 months later if he selected again it is.

    The rules should always be simple and consistent over time. I do not mind whether the rule is that playing for the National side, A side or U20s is a final choice of nationality or whether it should only be the National Side and A side pick a rule and stick to it.

    Of course this will disadvantage countries who do not field an A side for financial reasons, but any rule has costs as well as benefits.

  • Comment number 14.

    A tricky situation very poorly handled by all concerned. Farce.

  • Comment number 15.

    I don't see there is really an issue. The rules stated that if he played for wales at U20 level in a game sanctioned by the IRB then Wales would be the nation he played for. Its not the IRBs fault, or the WRUs fault. its donw to the player.

    Its his fault. He must surely have known that playing for any national side withput you in contention to play for them . It seems to me that he has only picked Scotland because they are the first full international team to come calling. If he really felt himself Scottish then why didn't he decline to play for Wales U20s?

    The rules are in place and although they may change, it is down to the unions and players to make sure they know the rules.

  • Comment number 16.

    I think this case has exposed some big problems with the IRB and their rules on international eligibility. The minute I heard that the WRU were challenging shingler's call up I thought they were just being petty. That was because I wasn't aware that a player could be tied to one country by simply playing in an under 20's game or A team game without having to sign anything beforehand. Does that not seem weird? How could something as important as that be left as a law that requires no written acknowledgement? If there was a rule stating all players must sign a deceleration then this whole dispute would never have occurred in the first place. What I think is fundamentally wrong is the fact that if Shingler had played for Scotland under 20's he could still play for Wales, but because Wales don't have an A team the rules are changed to accommodate them. I suppose it was only a matter of time before something like this happened.

  • Comment number 17.

    @ 16

    Its not that the rules were changed to accomodate Wales. The fact is that for the welsh the U20s are the direct feeder squad of the National team. In countries such as England where we have the the Saxons (or 'A' Team) to feed the National team it means that the U20s is not as highly regarded.

    I agree that ALL players should have to sign a declaration choosing which National team they wish to play for, unless they go straight into the National side, which then would automatically see them declare which nation they were playing for.

  • Comment number 18.


    Sorry I what I meant was there should be a level playing field, whereby every country has the same process of feeding the national team or even better players should have to sign decelerations.

  • Comment number 19.

    Firstly I'd like to correct banksyjunior (8) Ryan Giggs played for England schoolboys because he went to school in England, he was never qualified to play for England at that time although with the 5 year education rule he now would be. However on to the Steve Shingler case, in this day and age taking a player's word isn't good enough as Wales well know. Shane Howarth who John mentioned maintained he was Welsh qualifed, but would not bring shame on his mother, although the paperwork said he was not. We also had the cases of Brett Sinkinson who said his grandfather was born in Carmarthan when he was born in Oldham, and Colin Charvis who stated his grandad was Welsh yet no-one checked that and it caused great embarassment in Wales. However whoever is in charge of the paperwork at the SRU should be in hot water over this one. Yes Shingler's mum is Scottish, and yes Connacht won the case over the 2 Welsh lads, Loxton and Jarvis, being Irish qualified despite playing for Wales u 20's in 2010 but a simple piece of research would have told them that Wales had, like France, had made their u 20's their official 2nd team after the 2010 tournament. Since the IRB have set in stone that players who play for a nation's 2nd team is bound to that nation it was obvious the IRB would rule in Wales favour. You can't blame the WRU they were defending their interests but Scotland have made fools out of themselves as has Shingler with his comments over not signing a piece of paper when he clearly states he wanted to catch the eye of the Welsh selectors less than 4 months ago.

  • Comment number 20.

    @ 18

    the problem is due to funding issues there won't ever be a level playing field.

    do you think the teams like Canada will be able to keep running lots of squads to try and ensure their players stay there?

  • Comment number 21.

    I think the "opportunity" for selecting my Country ends after I have left school.

    In other words, "age-group" qualification ends at U18 / "Schoolboys", because my location is determined by others, usually parents, and so I can be Welsh, attending an English School and Play for England Schools and vice versa. I can be Scottish, attending School in New Zealand, so I am eligible for New Zealand Schoolboys and so on... This means I maximise the opportunities available while I am at school - which surely at the time is what life is about...

    Once I have left school, however, and I enter the world of "grown-ups", I should behave in a grown-up way, and make my choices accordingly - and then stick with it, unless I am prepared to move myself and qualify for another country through Residency - and that process should include the length of time required to qualify for Residency of that country. So I remove myself from the International game, assuming my home Country decides not to select players playing overseas, unless they're close mates: sorry, Martin...

    Where the British Isles is concerned, if I am lucky enough to be selected for a Country above Schools, such as U20, even if I have played for that Country's "Schools" side and I chose to play, I should now be bound, because I have made that choice as an adult after careful and meaningful consideration, not a thrill, or a convenience, or to "improve my value"...

    If I am still at school, and I represent a Country at a level above Schoolboys, I should be bound to that Country as an adult would be.

    It seems to me that young Shingler is being advised poorly, and a "bet" is being laid on his value with the hope that at 25 he'll have more caps and so a higher wage if he choses Scotland rather than Wales.

    Where International Rugby Union is concerned, there should be a consequence to poor decisions and poor advice and while it would be wrong to effectively preclude a player from the International scene forever, which in Shingler's case would be by having the IRB refuse SRU qualification, and WRU then not selecting for breach of what they understood, everyone can save face from a period of 3 years or so.

    So, grow up Mr Shingler and tell your advisors that an International jersey does actually mean something to you, and having made your choice, support that group with all you've got until you're offered the honour to play again...

  • Comment number 22.

    @21 jpap67: Pretty much agree with you here, though I think it should be a full cap not just U20 as you might be at school say in New Zealand/Australia, be fully English, but not able to play for England U20 due to still being with your parents and at the school of their choosing.
    My opinion anyway!

  • Comment number 23.

    Agree with you John.
    It's high time that a ruling was made about the rules!
    However, for the sake of clarity and consistency, another rule should be introduced stating that: playing once for any international U20 side should now preclude you from playing full senior internationals with another country. After all, Wales and France made the choice not to field A sides, and so, those countries that do field A sides should not be disadvantaged.

    It's a shame that Shingler appears to be the sacrificial lamb at the moment, but I believe that the WRU will do the decent thing and release him to Scotland if he still wishes to go - this particular IRB ruling has been made after Shingler had committed to Scotland.

  • Comment number 24.

    What a bag of nails. Do the WRU inform the players of the qualification situation before the game and make them sign the forms afterwards !.Rules are rules but if Shingler hasn't signed the relevant IRB form and has played regardless, what happens now ?. Sounds to me that there is no signed contract for Shingler to play for Wales, Just a verbal one !. As far as I know verbal agreements are not legally binding.

  • Comment number 25.

    I agree with most of the other posts in that the rules have ended up in a farcical situation.
    There has been a lot of comment about the rules but very few about the sporting side of the equation. I'll be honest and say that I had never heard of the young man until his selection and subsequent furore but basically, do his talents really make it a worthwhile battle for the SRU to be fighting? Is Shingler a true talent and one for the future (so worth fighting for) or is he the best of a bad bunch due to a lack of other options?

  • Comment number 26.

    Find it very strange that some people are calling 18-23 year olds kids who don't really know the consequences of their decisions?!?! At this age you are able to get married, go to war and kill, vote all things which are far more complex decisions than which country you feel you should represent. Some people are saying but what if you are in a country because your parents live there so you don't get chance to represent your country of choice at say under 20 level, well this may come as news to some but I assume not many, but by the time you are at this age generally you have secured a contract, very lucrative one at that, to a region or club so therefore more than able to move away from mummy and daddy. Also you will probably find that the wru, rfu, sru etc know exactly who is potentially available for their national teams from a young age no matter where you play your rugby. E.g if there is some talented 18 year old signed to leicester in the premiership who has a remote chance of playing for Wales then trust me the wru will know about it and take steps to pick him for Wales age levels, If the player declines and chooses to play for England age levels then for me he is then committed to England.

    In regards to shingler it was made perfectly clear by representing Wales 20's he would be committing himself to Wales. Therefore no sympathy, man up and stand by your decision and have some self pride.

  • Comment number 27.

    The player and the SRU are coming out of this badly unfortunately. I don't like these completely out of the blue selections anyway but that is the nature of professional sport I guess. A clever tactical move by the WRU to remove their 'A' team (for financial reasons as well of course) and give their U20 second team status. This really does protect their production line and pathways to losing players to other countries. It doesn't seem right though that it is an U20 team for one country and a 'A' team for another which decides allegiance. The reality for the likes of Scotland and England is that players seem to progress quicker to the full side from the U20s than from the 'A' side anyway. The Saxons in England is not a good route to the national team. Think Luke Narroway from the Saxons being overlooked for the RWC as a replacement with Thomas Waldrom (not played for Saxons) chosen ahead of them.
    With regards to residency I think 3 years is not long enough really and once selected through residency you should only be able to keep playing for that country while you are residing in the country.

  • Comment number 28.

    Had Shingler played against Scotland or England U20s he would still be eligible for Scotland, it was only because both France and Wales did not have an A team that season that it became a game that fixed eligibility. It is interesting that the IRB regulation 2 states that "A Union or Association is deemed to have full knowledge of the content of these Regulations", the implication - rightly in my mind - is that players and fans don't.

    If it was clear to the WRU and explained to Steve that the game fixed his eligibility why was he asked to sign a declaration committing himself to Wales as well, the fact he refused to sign shows he didnt wamt to be tied at the time. The IRB need to come up with clearer regulations that everyone can understand, and I think that should be the country you are first capped for at full international level.

  • Comment number 29.

    I agree with Ajs comments on age that a number of others seem to have missed.
    Let's not forget a lot of these "kids" already have contracts with Premiership clubs, played in the league and the occasional player gaining a full cap all below age 20

  • Comment number 30.

    Parentage shouldn't be a factor - a player should be eligible only for the country where he was born - unless that country has no representative team.

    If extended to other sports and looking to history, that would have meant Richard Gough being eligible only to play [association] football for Sweden - but would that have been a bad thing?

    If a player is good enough, he will be selected for the land of his birth, regardless of where he has spent the rest of his life. (I suspect, though, that few soccer-minded parents would take holidays in Brazil towards the end of a pregnancy...)


    As to the issue at hand, the suggestion that Shingler isn't REALLY Scottish is a distraction; under present rules, it appears that he is eligible and - most importantly - he wants to be identified as a Scot.

    As to the Welsh crying 'foul' because of the idea that he only opted for SRU because he couldn't get a game for Wales, well more fool them. Any country wanting to protect its future stream of players would ensure that they were unambiguously tied to that country.

    And if Wales didn't want him, why should he be denied international rugby as a result?

    (I wouldn't reject out of hand the idea that any player not selected for his national side for 36 months, should be able to attach himself to any country of his and their choosing.)

  • Comment number 31.

    Nobody comes out of this with any credit. Shingler and his agents need to take some personal responsibility, they should know who they committed to. The paperwork person at the SRU should be reprimanded, surely its not rocket science to check if the team the lad played in was a deemed the 2nds and whether he's played a 2nd team, all of this info should be readily available.

    To be fair to Wales they might have done Scotland a huge favour by raising it officially at this time. At least its sorted before the 6N starts and we don't have to debate the validity of 6N results and their impact on the outcome of the tournament due to a team fielding an eligible player.

    The rule stretching it to U20's might be stupid but its still the rule. Frankly the eligibility rules have been stupid for quite some time.

  • Comment number 32.

    @ 1.Mr T - Mo farah's dad is english and he moved to england when he was 8. i ran against him at the london mini marathon and he was bloody quick (and he won obviously!). he is not in the same boat as manu tuilagi who is basically an illegal immigrant (he was on an expired student visa) who got to stay because he was good at rugby. I cannot understand how shingler can decide he is scottish when 2 months ago he stated his desire to get into the welsh team. it comes down to the fact that scotland are a weaker team than wales (they are before you start screaming) and he would certainly get more caps for wales. chris paterson would not have had half the caps he has had for scotland if he were representing wales.

  • Comment number 33.

    In my mind eligibility is simple. It should be:
    If you were born there you are eligible.
    If BOTH of your parents are from there you are eligible.
    If you have lived there more than 8 years (residency has to long enough that a big part of your formative years were spent there).

    if you have played a senior international (18+) representing any nation, then thats your nation. Doesn’t matter if you played tidily winks.

    but unfortunately the system is how it is and the rules are set up around the teams and not the other way round.
    In the Shingler situation, If Wales don’t at very least select him in the squad this whole process is a disgrace. If they don’t pick him now all they have done is take away a young players chance of playing international rugby.

  • Comment number 34.

    I am in agreement with Rodders on this one. Why were the WRU asking him to sing a declaration if they knew he wouldn't be legible to play for anyone else afterwards. And if they did know, why did they not tell the player. I can also see Shingler's side in thus. He currently plays in the Premiership, in England. Therefore making him illegible to play for Wales anyway. So now if he decides he wants to stay with London Irish long term, he won't be allowed to play for any country. A little harsh.

    Were the Wales and France under 20's playing in the 'A' competition? If not then the ruling is a farce. If they were then why not just call them the 'A' team anyway.

  • Comment number 35.

    My usual opinion on this matter is that agree grade rugby should not commit you to a particular country for the rest of your career. I think that making that decision at 20 years old when you may have other options is too young and ultimately not fair on the player involved.

    I do however agree that playing for the 2nd xv rugby should cement your international allegiance as you are very close to getting a full cap and a choice has to be made at some point.

    The issue here is that Wales do not have a "A" team (this is the subject of another debate that is currently raging in Wales so I will not go into that!!) which makes their U'20 side the second senior xv and the "last stop" for declaring your eligibility.

    However, it gets even more complicated is my understanding is that this ruling only comes into affect when you play another country in the same situation (e.g. France). If you were to play for Wales U'20 against England U'20, this would not commit you to Wales for the rest of your career as England have the Saxons so you are not playing 2nd XV rugby when you play against their U'20 team. The same would apply if you played against Ireland (they have the Wolfhounds as their 2nd xv) or, ironically, Scotland (as they have Scotland A).

    Wales had 2 players (Loxton & Jarvis) who were in the same situation and ended up leaving their Welsh teams to go and play for Connacht in Ireland and became Irish-qualified as they had family ties to Ireland despite the fact that they had played for Wales U'20 against another side who use their U'20 team as a 2nd XV (France).

    This incident clearly caused a stir and it was then decided that any future players who were in this situation (playing against France U'20) would be informed before the game that playing in this fixture would commit them to representing Wales for the rest of their career. This is what happened with Steven Shingler. He was told that playing in that game would commit him to Wales and he chose to play.

    Even if you do not agree with this stance, or refuse to sign a "declaration" to play for Wales, you must respect the rules and, if he had any genuine thoughts about playing for either England or Scotland in the future, he should have declined to play in this game. He knew the situation beforehand and chose to play. The argument ends here as far as I am concerned.

    I do not mean to cause any offence and I do think that Steven Shingler is a very good player as I am a Scarle

  • Comment number 36.

    I meant sign a declaration. Although if they asked him to sing it, it may help to decide if he's truly Welsh!

  • Comment number 37.

    This is a really tricky situation that is hard to make one hard and fast rule for. I have a Scottish dad and Welsh mother but grew up in England which qualifies me for all 3, but as I watched rugby with my dad and have had a lot of cultural input I would always regard myself as Scottish. But this won't be for everyone, having never been good enough to play any age group represntation I don't know what I would have done if offerred.

    I also don't agree with the residency rule if you have lived here for 3 years to play professional rugby because they haven't had anything to do with youth structures or learning the game in that country, which means Iwill have mixed feelings when Tim Visser pulls on the shirt. I do see a difference with Manu Tuilagi and Falatau who, although came over because of rugby, lived in their respective countries as children and played youth rugby.

  • Comment number 38.

    An interesting blog John...although it's a little bit scatty. Well done on the whole though.

    Rules are rules...he played for Wales 'second team' and that's that. No more Scotland.

    And i believe Wales have got it #27 points out. At under 20s level an individual should be perfectly grown up enough to make the decision regarding who to play for. Lucky so and sos. They don't know they're born.

  • Comment number 39.

    completely agree with everythinbg John says above - both the content, and the emotion.
    The only thing I would add, is that residency qualification needs to be increased to 5 years.

  • Comment number 40.

    National identity is fascinating.

    Factors such as family, geography, landscape, people, history, weather, creativity, culture (I'm steering perilously close to waffle mode now so I'll stop), and climate all contribute to a persons' empathy, affiliation and bond with a country and it's flag.

    I believe there's more credibility to a player playing for a country if they have residency there but no bloodline. Certainly, far more credibility than someone who has a great grandparent but doesn't identify with the country they hope to play for and has never lived there.

    With all that said, national identity (as oxy-moronical as this sounds) is border-less. You could be Peruvian, live in Scotland, gain residency and become Scottish because everything about the culture and way of life makes sense to you, makes you happy and feels right.

    National identity is a choice.

  • Comment number 41.

    I don't think the WRU comes out of this looking bad - it is just applying IRU rules - if they didn't shout foul then they would be placing themselves at a disadavantageous position for evermore - ie any country can approach a player good enough to play for Wales at U20 but not yet capped and 'take him'. I think Shingler is the one who comes out of this looking bad as stated so well in #5, and the SRU comes out looking a bit stupid or duped...The fact is in life you need to make decisions and take opportunities which often commit you - he did by choosing the Welsh U20 place and the fact that he maybe isn't good enough to develop further or has his place blocked by someone better is just life. And also choosing your nationality in life is a pretty key thing and should be a done deal for a 20 year old. Even people who take up another passport much later should at heart forever be from their home country. Also not everyone has a god-given right to play in their chosen position for their chosen country and he might not be good enough for Scotland either....Clive Shell died this week - one of many very good Welsh scrumhalves who might have have picked up a lot of caps than the one he did if it wasn't for a player called Gareth Edwards. Do we think Clive seriously regretted his Welshness or wished he might have discovered an Irish grandmother? I think it is sad that players want to forget their true and initially adopted roots purely on the basis of a possibly better rugby career. It might be rife in other countries, NZ especially comes to mind, but I think apart from their desperate and embarrassing dallying with some NZ origin players about 10-15 years ago the WRU has been pretty steady on this whole thing. The SRU too I think.

  • Comment number 42.

    It seems Shingler hasn't understood the situation himself, despite, from what I have read, the fact he was told before playing it would tie him to Wales.

    The SRU know the rules too. Does that mean it was down to incompetence or have they raised the issue on purpose?

    On a wider front, I also think that there is a big difference between the Visser/Tualagi situations. Visser is from a country currently ranked 45th, but Tualagi is from a top ten ranked nation.

    I agree with those who want a totally level playing field. If it is to be Under 20 that qualifies you, then it should be the same for everyone. The problem with the current situation is that countries choose their own criteria, and can change them from one year to the next.

  • Comment number 43.

    I've just read the phrase 'sports tourism' - I really don't think this applies here, Shingler is dual qualified and has been since birth.

    What I think is the most farcical point about this which has not really been talked about is that Wales and France, two of the better off national unions have, quite cynically in my eyes, dropped their 'A' teams and are exploiting the next senior team ruling to tie in u20 players for the rest of their lives (better to get 10 new u20 players a year tied in than have the same group of players in an 'A' team, who are already qualified, eh?)

    Think about it from Shingler's view - forgetting who he may have said he wants to play for in the past, he is a professional who wants to quite rightly take any opportunity to take his career to the highest level he can, just as in any other type of professional career. As an unknown 18, 19 year old he was offered the chance to play national age group rugby and rightly grabbed it as an opportunity to heighten his professional standing. I read above that he wasn't even close to the Scarlets 1st XV, so I presume it was these outings led to his being on the radar for larger clubs, eventually leading to him finding his way to Irish.

    If you again think of it as a career path, saying the decision he made at 18, 19 is analogous to saying if someone of the same age takes a degree in History, then they can only work in the field of history for the rest of their working life - this poses a serious and unfair limitation on professional progress because of decisions taken at a very young age!

  • Comment number 44.

    as for the Polynesians who are offered scholarships by Australasian countries - this is simply the financial reality of the world - perhaps if the IRB feels as strongly about national loyalty as they publically say they do they should drastically improve funding and youth infrastructure in Tonga, Samoa, Fiji etc so that they can afford to identify, retain and support their elite athletes

  • Comment number 45.

    I can understand a national rugby union wishing to tie a player in to their national team if they have invested resources in his development. Rugby is, however, a professional sport and a capped player has the potential to earn more from gaining that cap. If he is tied into a team he is unlikely to actually play for, is that not restraint of trade?

    The qualifications on blood grounds and residency make it possible for the best players to reach the highest level of their sport which their domestic circumstances might not otherwise allow, with Tim Visser being a good example. It seems daft to suggest had Visser played for the Dutch U20s, he'd be barred from playing for Scotland, as we want to see him play for our team, which is still one of the World's top sides. On the other hand, if the Dutch union had dedicated resources to the development of that youth side, shouldn't they have an option? Visser has obviously accepted his nation's rugby prospects are limited and there is no need for him to remain with Edinburgh once he is established in the Scottish squad, so he seems to have a bright professional future. Certainly a brighter future than Shingler might have, albeit he wouldn't be guaranteed a Scottish cap either.

    I'm a little uncertain to when Shingler refused to sign the form and when he would have been informed he would be committing himself to Wales anyway by playing for the team. I believe he played more than once for Wales U20s, but it is only the game against France that counted, so was it then he declared he didn't wish to commit to Wales or when previously selected. Yes, if he was told he would be tied and was in any doubt, he should have withdrawn, but Wales should also have recognised his stated wish not to commit and not put him in that position. What a mess.

    I agree with what was said above, only a cap should signify an irreversible commitment to a national team. A problem lies with the selection of a squad, the detailed training and strategies and the reality that, like Moray Low at the World Cup, a player could be heavily involved in the squad, but not play any part in the matches. Low is already capped, but if he wasn't should he be free to play for another country? I think he should, but it would be hard to accept unless the player had strong links to that other country.

  • Comment number 46.

    John- a sorry and messy situation if ever there was one. The notion of nationality philosophically has always been contested. Is is to do with 'blood' (i.e. parenttage), 'soil' (i.e. the land of your birth), or 'history' (what cultural and historical heritage has informed your sense of self-identity), or a blend of these. Philosophically it's never been about residency, if my son aged 13 was to move to France, he'd always be a Scot living in France. However, the situation in sport is not about philosophical conceptions of nationality, but legal definitions of nationality (which may be influenced by the philosophical arguments).

    Thus, like many others have said, the IRB regulations on nationality (the legal framework) needs greater clarity and transparency. So like others who have commented I'm in favour of a centrally held register of players who are tied internationally to a particular nation, with the IRB responsible at the point of registration for ensuring the legality and validity of that registration. This perhaps means more documentation needs to be provided by the various unions to satisfy the IRB of eligibility, but it takes out the element of ambiguity and allows for early examination and questioning of any dubious registrations.

    The discussion then moves on to what are the IRB legal grounds for eligibility. While I understand calls to increase residency to five years, I worry that this would mean rich countries would try to induce young talented players from "lesser" rugby nations to leave their "home" country at a young age. In other words it would increase the mercenary aspect of the whole thing. Just because other nations do this does not make it right, nor does it mean that we should follow their example.

    This leads onto the whole question of how old should someone be to commit to be tied to the one nations when they are eligible for more than one nation, or where they may qualify if they take up residency. This is perhaps an issue the member unions of the IRB need to debate and agree upon. Clearly given most players in an u20 squad are 18+ years of age, they are not children (at least not according to the United Nations charter on the Rights of a Child Article 1 !), and thus you'd think they would be able to make a mature and informed choice about where their possible national allegiances lie. If Shingler was told, "if your play in this game your tied to Wales' then it does not matter what bits of paper he did or did not sign. If he had doubts about where his future lay then he should have sat that game out.

  • Comment number 47.

    Whats going to happen when you start doling out Scottish passports if Alex Salmond gets his way! Tongans and Fijians on residential qualifying scholarships to St Andrews university?! Is the SRU voting yes?

  • Comment number 48.

    Some good discussion. What hasn't been mentioned yet is the current trend of only selecting international players from teams within the country (a couple of exceptions I know!). This is perhaps 'forcing' people to change allegiance to another nation based on where they are playing their club rugby if they want to achieve their ambition of playing top-flight rugby. This is clearly not the case for Shingler (or the SRU) but is for many of the other players discussed on here.

  • Comment number 49.

    I feel sorry for the lad, its a great opportunity to play international rugby and Scotland could really do with him right now. He's unlikely to break into the welsh team anytime soon. Echoes of the
    Bosman ruling 9n terms of its impact and grossly unfair when you look it in the context of some outrageous international representatves over the years...

  • Comment number 50.

    Such a thorny issue and one that I actually makes the IRB rules look as bad as anyone else in this situation. It really comes across as one rule for some and another rule for the rest. Most of this comes down to the fact that there is no set rules that are applied evenly across the board to everyone.

    Whilst the IRB are getting better and closing the loop holes there are still those that appear to be able to get round them. Looking at the past I seem to remember Rupert Moon played for England A but then went on to play 20+ caps for Wales, Va'aiga Tuigamala played for the All Blacks and then several years later on turned out for Samoa. I even remember Joel Stransky was mooted for and England selection post 1995 under residency rules/ non selection for S. Africa for a set period of time. Each case was allowed within the rules at the time.

    Shingler understandably wants to play as high a level as he can and is looking at the easiest option to achive that. As pointed out above he's not the first and certainly not the last. What this comes down to is the proceedures that were followed (exactly why I expect this to be taken to an official review). Why was there the need for a signed declaration? Was Shingler specifically told ahead of the Fench game that this would tie him in? There are a lot of questions that can be asked of this and many of which we will not be privy to given we get the surface facts out of the media and weren't in the room at the time as it were.

    The WRU have the right to defend their interest just as the SRU have the right to enquire as to the availabilty of a player. This could have/should have been dealt with before the squad was announced. However if one thing good comes from it is that it is a mainline story now and will force the issue into the open and hopefully make the IRB review the rules regarding elligabilty once more and further clarify them. (Although can they wait until after June 2012 so Visser gets a cap, really want to see that boy on the big stage! ;-))

  • Comment number 51.

    Shingler was specifically told before he played against France he would be committing himslef to Wales, signed declaration or no declaration.
    As the article states, he's on record as saying how much he wants to play for Wales.
    Now he finds himslef in a queue to join the squad, so he now wants to take an easy option and play for Scotland, who don't have the same quality of players in that position.
    He has no-one to blame but himself.

  • Comment number 52.

    Difficult dilemma for sportspeople to make. Also difficult to arbitrate as the IRB is looking for a prescriptive solution to a problem that is not straight forward and very subjective. I went to university at 18 to study maths and IT (it was called computer science then - the age of zx81's and commodore 64's) and realised in less than a year that it was a big mistake! I ended up dropping out of college for a couple of years before finding my true calling (politics & economics) and going to a different university. Given how important a decision that is, what a long-lasting effect it has on your career (and hence life) and how difficult it is to make, I have sympathy with anybody dual qualified at that age. I also spent one of those years out in Australia, which I thoroughly enjoyed and was tempted to stay permanently. The pull of an adopted country is very strong and people who genuinely take this route and love the country tend to take their commitment very seriously and gratefully, appreciating that country for what it has given them (and often their families). Again I have sympathy for people who qualify on residency and obviously are grateful for this, a great example being Dale McIntosh, who was born in New Zealand but wore the Welsh jersey with a passion and commitment that left no doubt that he was in it with his heart.

    Add in to this mix the diaspora communities around the world. The Celtic nations in particular have long histories of emigration, often forced (eg irish famine, read any Alexander Cordell book for Welsh reasons to leave). Having a strong allegiance to an ancestral home can be very powerful, often spanning more than 3 generations and this again can be quite genuine.

    There is also a case to be made for countries outside the top ones where a player with experience can give so much to a countries development (Frano Botica springs to mind). Such players can help a country's development and give far more than they receive in this situation.

    The problem is that there are genuine reasons for switching countries and there are less genuine ones. I don't think anyone approves of players switching for gain. How do you distinguish between players switching for genuine reasons of heart (particularly when the choice has been made at a young age) and financial inducements. There is also a problem with countries trying to use the rules to trap players, often with more thought being given to preventing other countries having the services of that player. The end result is that a prescriptive rule such as this one where you are irrevocably committed after one game has to be flawed. Similarly people keeping their options open to switch for the wrong reasons is a likely outcome. The only just solution is an active panel to arbitrate on these decisions and make a subjective ruling. Every case is subjective, there are few hard and fast rules to judge these things by, so why pretend otherwise?.

  • Comment number 53.

    must be a different steve shingler?!

  • Comment number 54.

    "Shingler was specifically told before he played against France he would be committing himslef to Wales, signed declaration or no declaration."

    Who confirms this? Is there a specific source/witness to this statement other than a generic press release? In a legal sense I think this would leave it very much open to contesting. Was it just one person, who was it, was it in the presence of witnesses? It could come down to Shinglers word against theirs. Was he told directly, given his abstainment from from signing the declaration? Also given the refusal to sign the declaration does that mean the WRU should have dropped him for that game or after discussion if he decided he wanted to play re-supplied the declaration for him to sign in order to close any potential for this situation arising in the first place?

    Just to re-iterate here I fall not on one side nor the other of this, there is not enough concrete evidence one way or the other from what I've seen to tell exactly what has gone on. However, I think these are the sort of questions that will be asked and also the type that could lead to a legal challenge of a ruling saying Shingler is inelligible to play for anyone else Wales/Scotland/England.

  • Comment number 55.

    One tweak to the qualification rules that I would like to see is to allow parentage potentially to determine national eligibility.

    NOT the nationality of the player's parents (already allowed), but the nationality of the player's child(ren) (if any) - if an individual has fathered a Scot, then he should be eligible to represent Scotland, should he (and the sport's administrators) choose so to do.

  • Comment number 56.

    I accept what people are saying here that rules are rules, and that Steve was told before he played that it would fix his playing nationality, I can't understand though why the WRU therefore insisted on a declaration being signed - surely that undermined their assertions. Was it made clear to Steve that it was the playing or the declaration that fixed his nationality? When was he told - when he was selected, or when he was in the changing room?

    The regulations are clear that nationality is fixed by playing for the senior team or next senior team. I dont think age restricted teams should come into it, it makes it more confusing in that you need to know what the status of your opposition is as well. I think there are plenty of mitigating circumstances for Steve, the SRU should have done their homework and consulted the WRU beforehand, the WRU shouldn't be confusing the situation by circulating declarations and allowing players to play without signing them, and the IRB needs to produce regulations that are clear for administrators players and supporters of the game.

  • Comment number 57.

    Personally think it's pretty rich of the WRU to try this on. What it's OK for them to have Felatau but not for the Scots to have Shingler?

  • Comment number 58.

    The IRB have proved yet again that they are populated by a right bunch of comedians who could not be trusted to run a bath, let alone a professional sport.

    In 1999 the IRB published a rule that stated that from 1 January 2000 all unions must nominate their designated 2nd senior side for a period of 4 years. The periods of nomination run as follows (remember IRB rules)

    01/01/00 - 31/12/03
    01/01/04 - 31/12/07
    01/01/08 - 31/12/11
    01/01/12 - 31/12/15

    Why then were both Wales and France permitted by the IRB to break that rule and change their designated 2nd senior XV at the begining to mid 2011? Up to a full year early!

    The next question that I have is why the IRB in their infinite collective wisdom ever allowed and age grade team to be designated as a 2nd senior XV and elgible to be played against by the like of the England Saxons, Irish Wolfhounds and New Zealand 2nd XV (whatever it is called)?

    Finally, if the WRU procedures were followed and the procedure included the signing of a declaration by all dual eligible players that they are, by playing for the Wales U20 team, committing themselves to Wales then where is the declaration signed by Steve Shingler? I think that the WRU should be issued with a 7 day notice to produce on this one.

    Complete farce created by the WRU and the IRB together.

  • Comment number 59.

    The BBC erroneously keep saying that Steve Shingler said during an interview that he wanted to play for Wales. I listened to the interview again recently and he did not say that he wanted to play for Wales at any point during that interview. So, BBC please stop reporting that he did.

    During the interview he said that he wanted to play international rugby and he als said that Warran Gatland had not, at that time, called him. Anything else is an interpretation of what he said. BBC report the facts and stop putting the wrong interpretation on it.

  • Comment number 60.

    John, please tell me where during the clip at the link below Steve Shingler says that he wants to play for Wales (that's the 48 second clip). If you could send me a transcript of the interview with the words that you think give that impression highlighted then that would be great.

    Of course, if you cannot then I would be delighted if you could see your way clear to remove the comment in your blog where you say that he is on tape as at the BBC as stating that he wants to play for Wales.

  • Comment number 61.

    It seems a bit churlish to me...especially as the guy is to all intents and purposes English, living and working in London ;-)

    Seriously though, the poor kid is now up the proverbial creek in a barbed wire canoe. He has played representative rugby for Wales as a junior and consequently, because Wales don't field a senior A team, this is considered under the regulations to have much greater significance than it does in other countries. People after all, never grow tired of pointing out that Martin Johnson played a few games for New Zealand schools!

    He has declared that he wants to play for Scotland. Whether this is because the tartan-mist has descended over his eyes and he sees it as his patriotic destiny, or whether he calculates that he won't get into the Welsh squad is open to debate. The trouble is that, having been denied release by Wales, will he ever actually stand a chance a playing for that country? Or will he be at the back of the queue for selection as regarded as suspect, thus blighting his career?

    I think that they should give the kid a break. He played for Wales when he was very young (and didn't realise what he was doing ;-)). Denying him what he wants to do and what he is qualified as an adult do smacks of mean-spiritedness on behalf of the WRFU.

    I am however generally with John in disapproving of poaching overseas and of "flag of convenience" players, in any shirt!

  • Comment number 62.

    Anglophone, have you stopped supporting England given that they have a number of "flag of convenience" players in their midst?

  • Comment number 63.

    60 above, Philip, you are right. Nowhere in the recording does he actually say he wants to play for Wales, he talks about international opportunity. The headline said he was talking about playing for Wales.

  • Comment number 64.

    #43 & 44

    You mention taking a history degree at a young age should not mean you have to work in history later in life as at that point you are still young!!! This is nonsense, as state before 20 does not mean you are a child, you are an adult in every sense of the term. If you choose to study as a teacher and then five years down the line think actually no I want to be a lawyer, should the law society accept you made mistake when 20 because bless after all you were only 20 and just take you on as a lawyer or should you accept that by doing teaching degree it restricts you to teaching?!?!

    #45 mentions restraint of trade??? So if Henson wants to play or England to earn more money should it be allowed otherwise we are restricting his trade??

    People are describing playing for your country as a job as do some of the players. It's not. It's a privilege the fact you get paid on top is a nice bonus, your job so to speak is playing for your club or region as it is with these you have an employment contract not your nation.

    FACT shingler knew he was committing to Wales and was a big enough boy to make this decision, let's not Molly coddle our young men and get them to stand up on their own two feet. Again as mentioned before, we hae sixteen year olds at war for us who have to make life or death decisions and are more than capable of this, so boo hoo if I am going to feel sorry for shingler because he can't decide at 20 who to play for!!!

  • Comment number 65.

    In all this talk about the Steve Shingler issue I'm surprised no one has mentioned the admittedly (in this specific case) irrelevant but nonetheless highly interesting fact that his brother Aaron is currently playing some good stuff down at the Scarlets and is ironically on the vurge of a Welsh call up for 6 nations himself! Watch out for him this weekend in the Heineken Cup if he plays - a strong performance should just about do it for him. Think sort of a 'Pierre Spies' type player in terms of his mobility around the field, carrying, tackling and try scoring capabilities....

  • Comment number 66.

    AJ, err no, Shingler, according to him, told WRU that he wanted to keep his options open. The WRU told him that he had to sign a declaration form which Shingler claims he did not do. So please, AJ stop this FACT nonsense.

  • Comment number 67.

    "Shingler was specifically told before he played against France he would be committing himslef to Wales, signed declaration or no declaration."

    Midas_Child @ 54 I've said before that the only way the WRU can prove this is by producing a piece of paper that states the signatory has been told and fully understands that by playing in the game in question that he is committing his international future to Wales with Steve Shingler's moniker on it. So far, as far as we are aware, the WRU have not done so. If what Steve Shingler is reported to have said is true then neither are the WRU able to produce such a piece of paper.

    The WRU claim that their procedures were followed and that those procedures include that step U20 players could not play for Wales U20 unless they signed a declaration stating that they understand that they are committing their international futures to Wales. So where is the piece of paper with Shingler's signature on it? WRU dug a wee hole for themselves here.

  • Comment number 68.

    Phillip FACT Wales versus France under 20's game meant you were tied to that country as stated by IRB!!!! Not nonsense!!!

  • Comment number 69.

    @63. Thanks for that John. I do wish the BBC (in this case the interview headline and not John) would report the facts and not somebody's wrong interpretation of them.

  • Comment number 70.

    Richie McCaw has a Scottish name, wears the kilt and plays the bagpipes..

    As he is clearly a Scot, he should be barred from playing for New Zealand. In fact, New Zealand should forfeit all matches that they won with him in the team! That should sort things out.

  • Comment number 71.

    This is a very interesting case and clearly highlights some of the unusualness found in the IRB regulations!

    Whether or not it is right for Wales to designate their U20s as their "second XV" is irrelevant to this case. The fact is that they can, and have, done so. This case simply boils down to whether or not the Wales U20s vs. France U20s game in which Shingler played was between two "second XV" teams.

    Having read Regulation 8 (which defines national elligibility) I have come to understand that a Union can only declare a "second XV" once every four years. So, to me, the question has to be when did France declare their U20s team as their "second XV"?? Correct me if I am wrong but I believe that France were still fielding France A as their "second XV" in 2009 and, I may be wrong with this, declared France A as their "second XV" in 2008. This would surely mean, by the IRB's own regulations, that France change their "second XV" to their U20s team until 2012! Can anyone clarify this?

    Also, if this rule is to remain, what incentive is their for the SRU to keep Scotland A as their "second XV"? Why don't we just keep Scotland A as a team, but declare our U20s as our "second XV" and tie players to Scottish rugby at an earlier age? It would show how poorly designed some of these regulations are!

  • Comment number 72.

    Aj, please put a little bit more effort into your arguments instead of offering uninformed bluster.

    If you had read what I said properly, you might have understood that I was suggesting preventing a player from playing international rugby might be considered restraint of trade. That is very different from allowing players to change allegiance merely to earn more. Obviously that happens at club level, but representative rugby is essentially different.

    The other FACT you should be more aware of is that you know no more about how Shingler was advised he was committed to Wales than anyone else here, so yes, it is nonsense.

  • Comment number 73.

    If his mother is Scottish then he is has the right to play for Scotland. He now clearly wants to play for Scotland for what ever reason (that is his concern). It would be churlish fro the WRU to stop him. Would he want to play for Wales in the future if they did prevent him playing for Scotland now?

    With increased mobility within Britain and the world this is going to be an significant issue for the future. The IRB must settle this once and for all.
    In my opinion a full international cap should be the point of no return. I also feel the current ruling of 3 years residency is unfair for the poorer nations and encourages the likes of NZ and perhaps England to poach players. This should be extended. (unless they come from non test playing nations)

  • Comment number 74.

    Aj, no it did not. The IRB have not looked properly at their own rules, and from your ranting behaviour neither have you looked at the IRB rule about the 2nd senior XV nomination periods. That is one of the points of contention and comes nowhere near any FACT.

    If you care to read my post at #58 then you might get an understanding of the issues being debated. To summarise

    Was the declaration by both Wales and France of their nominated 2nd XV within the rules of the IRB? I think not

    Was Shingler told of his commitment to the Wales cause before he played in the game in question? The WRU can prove that he was if, and only if, they can produce a piece of paper with Shingler's signature on it.

    Did the WRU follow their own procedures regarding player elegibility and informing the player of their future eligibility as a result of the game? Shingler claims not but the WRU can prove otherwise if they are able to produce the piece of paper with Shingler's signature.

    IMV, it is on the WRU to prove that Shingler is tied to them and not for the SRU to prove that he is not tied to Wales. As any scientist will tell you, it is very difficult to prove a negative.

  • Comment number 75.

    Ewen Cochran @ 71 From the IRB FAQs on their Regulation 8

    How do I know which team is a Union’s next senior fifteen-a-side
    National Representative Team?
    There should be no uncertainty over which team constitutes a Union’s
    next fifteen-a-side senior National Representative Team since, as from
    January 1 2000, Unions are required to notify the IRB of the name of its
    nominated next senior fifteen-a-side National Representative Team. The
    team nominated remains the Union’s next fifteen-a-side senior National
    Representative Team for a period of 4 years. The identity of a Union’s
    next senior fifteen-a-side National Representative Team can be verified
    with the Union concerned and/or the IRB.

    From that the question of the timing of the nomination by FFR and WRU of their U20s being their 2nd XV is very much open for debate as any nomination made between 1 Jan 2008 and 31 Dec 2011 can only come into effect on 1 Jan 2012.

    IMV, an age grade team by definition cannot be considered a senior team and why the IRB permitted that to happen is beyond me.

  • Comment number 76.

    Shingler's only defence is that he didn't sign anything.
    He has not denied that he was told he was committing himself to Wales before the France match, like all the other players.
    Verbal contracts do count.

  • Comment number 77.

    Happy new year to all.

    Like you John I'm not a fan of "flag of convienience" players, although Scotland has as bad a record as any in this, ie. Brendan Lainey who played for Scotland under Jim Telfer about 2 minutes off the plane from NZ.

    I this case I do wonder what this kids parents are advising him about and can't help but wonder who is advising him, 'cos they seem to have just about wrecked any potential career he may have. I mean after all this shenanigans nobody might want him if his allegiance is so up for sale.

    Personally I'm also against the residency qualification, I lived in Canada for many years and wouldn't have pulled on a Canadian jersey ever. I'm a Scot born and bred and it makes me sad to see people "prostitute" their nationality for sporting ends, I was never good enough to play for Scotland but would never have moved to another country to "get a game". Anyway I don't think that Outer Mongolia has a team.

  • Comment number 78.

    What about all the Scottish boys born here working their backsides off to do well and cannot even get the chance due to some guy who wants to play for another side because he did not get picked .
    Born in Scotland play for Scotland .Simple.

  • Comment number 79.

    Phillip read the second paragraph of this blog where it states the IRB's stance on this issue!!! It's FACT!!! Regardless of everything else this is the ruling. In my opinion once you turn eighteen and represent any country at what ever age group them you are committing to that country, that would clear up all this nonsense of changing your country to get a game and extra financial reward rather than the pride involved in playing for your country.

  • Comment number 80.

    #77 It is a professional sport at the top and the players have to make a living out of it or the game would die as a professional sport. Whilst I agree that representing your country should be the pinacle of your ambition the secondary ambition of making the most of your lot also has to be considered by the players.

    In the case of Tim Visser, he is doing an awful lot of good for the game in Holland by plying his trade in Scotland and so inspiring other Dutch people to follow and take up the game. Tim Visser not being allowed to play for a top ten nation would be a loss to the game and not help promote the game in a lower tier country. It was for cases like this that the residency rule was introduced.

    It was to avoid cases like Shingler's that the 2nd senior XV nomination rule was brought in. Shame a couple of nations had to muddy the waters by claiming that their oldest youth team is their 2nd senior side just because the IRB did not legislate against it.

  • Comment number 81.

    Seems to me the Welsh are playing a bit hard and loose with the rules. By no ones sensible definition can an U20s side be counted as the second senior side. By it's very definition an U20s team is not a senior team that's why it has an U20s rule!

    At a junior level you're far more likely to select your country of residence at the time. Thanks to travel costs and local commitments as a younger person you'll want to stay local. The fact that Martin Johnson played for a junior New Zealand team for example. At the time he was staying over there and junior level rugby for England would have been pretty impossible. So allowing these games to tie someone to a country for life seems rather unfair.

    It also seems a strange world to me where the same rules don't apply to different countries. For example with Ben Morgan he faced a decision to play for England or Wales and in the end he chose England. OK but let's say he'd played some U20s international rugby. Now if he'd played U20s for England he'd still have been eligible to play for Wales but if he'd played U20s for Wales he wouldn't have been eligible to play for England. I don't see how in any case this can be fair.

  • Comment number 82.

    Oh for goodness sake Aj! The FACT that the IRB have taken a stance is not in question. What is in question, and being challenged by the SRU and their very eminent legal team, is the correctness of that stance.

    As for clearing up any nonsense, it would have made much more sense if the IRB had, at the time they drafted Regulation 8, legislated against the nomination of age grade teams as 2nd "senior" teams. They did not, the WRU and the FFR spotted the error and went for it - 12 months too early in my view.

  • Comment number 83.

    Read the article and other comments made by the IRB and WRU carefully, you may get a better understanding of the situation.

  • Comment number 84.

    I've read them all carefully and know the situation. You still won't convicne me that any U20s team should be allowed to be the 2nd SENIOR squad. As I stated they clearly aren't a SENIOR squad as if they were they wouldn't be an U20s side

  • Comment number 85.

    Ewen (#71) and Philip (#75), your point re the 4 year declaration of a second XV is an interesting and important point. I have read elsewhere (I can't remember where) that France is inclined to change its nominated second XV quite frequently and the IRB is rarely certain what the official French second XV is. It is certainly clear that a nomination required every four years from 2000 on would not allow the A team of 2009 and the U20 XV of 2011 to both be the nominated second XV.

  • Comment number 86.

    This has been a bone of contention for me for quite sometime. Firstly i agree that the U20s can be classed as a national and senior secondary team, with a hope the player might be called to the senior team in the future. A player in the U20s can pick up sponsorship and endorsments, so its only right they then stay with the national side they are eligible for...

    Secondly, i personally feel (and with hope the IRB are reading this) for top tier teams i.e. top 8 in the world, your eligible ONLY if you were born in the counrty and not where your family was born! This helps the grass roots of the sport and doesnt hinder the teams that arent in the top 8 that will not have the depth of selection that we currently have. For example, HOW MANY ACTUALL BORN AND BREAD KIWIS WON THE WORLD CUP??? Exactly!

  • Comment number 87.

    No matter the outcome of this issue nobody is looking too clever at the moment neither the IRB, the SRU, the WRU or Shingler himself.
    Common sense would dictate that this could all have been dealt with offline by the SRU contacting the WRU to come to an agreement. Maybe they did and the Welsh refused to allow him to join Scotland.Which begs the question why are the Welsh so intent on pursuing this when all they are doing is pissing Shingler off to the extent that he may never want to play for them even if selected. Are they so intent on ruining someones potential international career before it has even started.Notwithstanding that Shingler himself is hardly the innocent party in all this.
    Ultimately the IRB are responsible for this mess by not administering the game in a simple straightforward and consistent manner. A player should only be committed to a country once he has earned a full cap, end of.

  • Comment number 88.

    "Legally, the situation may have changed, because France chop and change which of their teams is designated to be their second XV on an annual basis."

    By Kevin Ferrie in the Herald.

  • Comment number 89.

    Drowingnotwaving #85 and #88.

    That's very interesting. Surely that means that, in this case, the rule is unenforceable and Shingler should still be allowed to play for Scotland, England, and Wales?

  • Comment number 90.

    62 Philip

    "Anglophone, have you stopped supporting England given that they have a number of "flag of convenience" players in their midst?"

    I'll always support England...born and bred here! Nobody is free of the accusations of flag of convenience players and it's been going on for years when you consider what the Irish used to do before they developed such a tasty player-pool.

    I don't really approve of what England have done in some cases. Rikki Flutey springs to mind as a shameless mercenary for instance. Manu Tuilagi isn't really English by any reasonable definition, especially when you consider that his brothers play for Samoa (wouldn't you love to be a fly on the wall at Christmas?), but according to the legal interpretation of the rules he is as English as I am and I could be hauled away for suggesting otherwise.

    Conversely, some of the accusations of "flags of convenience" flying around before the RWC were beyond daft in many cases. Several players had been born abroad because their parents were on overseas postings at the time. They were ineligible according to some. Matt Banahan comes from Jersey (a Crown Protectorate since the 12th Century)...he was thought ineligible. You can go on.

    My rule is fairly simple and that revolves less around residency and more around domicility i.e. do you really live here? For instance Henrik Fourie came to England when he was 18 to go to university and took up playing again while he was here. He's lived here ever since and intends to stay. Is he ineligible...really?

    We live in a mobile world and the rules surrounding these arguments need to be readdressed in that light. Above all though, a degree of judgement needs to be applied by the IRB, rather than trying to create tortuous "catch-all" regulations, when deciding these cases.

    Anyway, Shingler is clearly ineligible for Wales. Being qualified by descent to play for Wales, Scotland and England suggests a level of genetic diversity that is way beyond that normally required to pull on the red jersey ;-)

  • Comment number 91.

    Eligibility determined by place of birth only may be taking it a bit far, but would have given Borneo a great number 8 during the 1980s.

  • Comment number 92.

    #85 Proving yet again that the IRB are a spineless bunch of comedians with the collective breaking strain of a kitkat (other bicuits covered in chocolate are available).

  • Comment number 93.

    The plot thickens. From The Scotsman:-

    " Shingler spoke enthusiastically last week of his annual visits to the ‘Muckle Toon’, and of his pride in competing in the Langholm Games athletics event. It is understood that as a result of that affinity he was always keen to keep the Scotland door open and was assured by Welsh coaches last spring that that remained the case even with under-20 selection.

    It is claimed that when Welsh officials produced a document prior to the French game requesting that he sign his future over to Wales, he refused and again asked whether playing would tie him.

    He duly played believing that he was not tied."

  • Comment number 94.

    Phillip - This is the key sentence in the whole thing:
    Once a Player has committed himself to a particular Union, through participation in one of the Matches or Tours identified in Regulations 8.3 or 8.4, he is unable to change his “Rugby Nationality” which becomes fixed.

    "Through participation". Not through signing the sheet. Not through chat. Not through anything except participation.

    Game over. I'm sure theres evidence of Shingler playing in that game. ;)

    As previously mentioned, its down to the Unions to understand these laws, not the players. That 'contract' of Shinglers would be null and void as the rule clearly states participates.

    He wasnt forced out there, he played through his own free will. Hard luck.

  • Comment number 95.

    57: Personally think it's pretty rich of the WRU to try this on. What it's OK for them to have Felatau but not for the Scots to have Shingler?

    Is that the same Falatau who's lived in wales since he was 8, discussed with his family his ambition to play for Wales not tonga, has a welsh accent, came through the Welsh age group system and who also played in the same game as Shingler that tied him to wales (something tonga accepted with out issue)?

    Fail to see how thats the same as the Shingler situation. Toby's just an excellent example of an person whos moved to a new country and intergrated fully into said country and made an informed decision to represent his adopted country.

  • Comment number 96.


    "Neither Wales nor France run an 'A' side and, under IRB regulation eight, their Under-20 teams of 2011 were also considered to be their second XVs."

    You may not like it, you may not be convinced, but ACCEPT it.

  • Comment number 97.


    It's not game over.

    From the IRB's regulations:-

    Regulation 8
    Explanatory Guidelines


    "There should be no uncertainty over which team constitutes a Union's next fifteen-a-side National Representative Team, as from January 1 2000, Unions are required to notify the IRB of the name of its nominated next senior fifteen-a-side. The team nominated remains the Union's next fifteen-a-side senior National Representative Team for a period of 4 years."

    Case closed. If France U20s weren't the next fifteen-a-side National Representative Team in 2010, from which two Irish players were released from Wales, they couldn't be in 2011 either.

    He'd better be a good player.

  • Comment number 98.

    It is iteresting listening to Shinglers agent Derwyn Jones speaking to radio Wales as he states that Steve Shingler is not in Wales' plans but are part of Scotland's plans. This leads me to speculate that his representatives have sounded the WRU out regarding the possibility of Steve Shingler being in Wales' immediate plans and having been told he is not part of Gatland's immediate plans has chosen the Scotland route. I don't think the call up is 'out of the blue' but has rather been instigated by SRU, Shingler and his representatives in the same way I imagine Ben Morgan was probably told he would be named in England's squad prior to him deciding to opt for playing for England rather than Wales. I reiterate the point I made above with regards to Shingler's brother Aaron. Where does this leave his international career? As far as I am aware he also played in that U20 match against the French so would also be ineligible to play for Scotland under the ruling announced yesterday. He is arguably the better player so why did he not get the Sotland call up? - because he plays in Wales? It will be interesting to see if Aaron does get selected for the Welsh squad. This is purely speculation and my opinion but I think there is more to this than is being made public.

  • Comment number 99.

    Anglophone whilst I agree with you on guys like Flutey who did seem to be a 'flag of convinience' player. Manu Tualagi I'd differ on you though given the young age at which he moved over (think he was less than 10). His and his brothers choices can only be up to each individual.

    In terms of Shingler IF the WRU told him by playing for their U20s team that it wouldn't stop him from playing for a senior international team then I feel they don't have a leg to stand on as they were giving him misinformation and basically lying to him to get him to play. Very poor showing if true and if it is true action should be taken agaisnt the WRU. Of course to restate this should only happen if it is true that they misled him.

  • Comment number 100.

    @98 Aaron Shingler's played 7s for Wales, so there's no doubt he's tied.


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