The eligibility debate: what should the criteria be?
Is it right that someone who has lived in a country for only three years can then play international rugby for it?
When I was a kid growing up in Malaysia a trip to the UK seemed a lifetime away. Rather, it was a boat trip across the Indian ocean, up through the Suez canal, over the length of the Mediterranean, and then up a short section of the Atlantic Ocean to Southampton and a train trip to Glasgow via London.
It took weeks.
Nowadays a 12-hour plane trip gets you from Kuala Lumpur to London, cooped up in a cabin breathing everyone else's air.
Edinburgh's Dutch wing Tim Visser has been given a call-up to the Scotland squad. Pic: SNS.
The point I am making is that people move around the world more easily than they used to. Or rather, the majority do as the greater part of the world's history is tied up with the movement of people looking for pastures, food, territory or water.
And that's probably had a role to play in the eligibility of people to represent a country when it comes to sport.
Saracens' South African number eight Ernst Joubert is the latest to declare himself available to England if they wish to field him as he becomes eligible this June. He follows the recent English additions like Mouritz Botha and Manu Tuilagi.
In Scotland in the past we have fielded David Hilton, who despite believing his grandfather was Scottish actually had no Scottish qualifications, Budge Pountney, who could choose his county as he was from the Channel Islands, and more recently Matt Mustchin, the New Zealander who played for Edinburgh and qualified on residency rules.
And going back to ancient history if you believe that you have to be born in a country to play for it then I never qualified to play for Scotland - Borneo stopped being a suburb of Glasgow a long time ago.
So, a bit of introspection from me: My father reminded me often that I was Scottish. Both my parents were from Glasgow. That was never in doubt. But, as I was born in what is now Malaysia, I think I would have liked to represent Malaysia. It's a beautiful country and there is something about where you are born that tugs at your heart.
My grandfather was South African. Er, I'd never have been good enough for the Springboks your honour.
But what if I'd moved to the USA aged 25 and then lined up against Scotland aged 28? Could I really have lined up against my own country if the USA were to take on Scotland?
Can I be honest? I'm from a different generation so it would have been difficult. I'm just not sure I could have done it. But there's a new breed of professional rugby player who is loyal, with immediate effect, to the club that pays him.
And, let's face it, if you're not good enough for the Springboks or New Zealand you are probably still good enough, in some cases, to play for Scotland.
And that probably applies in national terms as well. The more countries you live in as a rugby player, the less you are tied to the very first country you experienced.
Where I see this all becoming a problem is if countries start offering school scholarships to promising players from Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and perhaps even to a lesser extent New Zealand and South Africa before they play for their own countries.
I have no issue with it at professional level as in the case of Edinburgh's recent signing of the Free State's WP Nel, a promising prop who is on the fringe of the Springbok set-up but who will be able to play for Scotland in three years.
But if it ever becomes a full blown national strategy with schools involved then, frankly, count me out.
A nightmare scenario would be national strategies with future teams full of 20-somethings who were brought to Scotland (or England or any other country) in their teens and who mean that there are no places for players with firmer links.
So, good luck to Tim Visser, a plainly decent bloke. I've interviewed him a few times and he says directly that he's not Scottish but he also says how proud he is to play for his adopted country.
I find it hard to put myself in his shoes, I don't believe I could play for a country with which I have no real tie other than having lived in it for three years but, as they say, rules are rules and the world gets smaller and smaller.
I say it's acceptable - unless it becomes a widespread national strategy.
What do you think?
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