France rugby team to stop selecting 'foreign' players, says Laporte

Uini Atonio
Uini Atonio was born in New Zealand but has 20 caps for France

France will stop selecting non-French players who have qualified under the three-year residency rule, national federation boss Bernard Laporte says.

He announced the move after meeting World Rugby president Bill Beaumont.

"I told Bill that we've taken the political decision to stop playing foreign players in the national team," Laporte said.

Foreign-born players who currently play for France will remain eligible but new players will require a French passport.

The decision means the likes of New Zealand-born prop Uini Atonio, South Africa-born full-back Scott Spedding and Fiji-born wings Noa Nakaitaci and Virimi Vakatawa will continue to be available for France.

"Obviously, it's not retroactive. Those playing can continue playing but it's a strong signal for French academies and our youngsters that we'll play a maximum number of Frenchmen," added Laporte, the former France head coach who was elected president of the French Rugby Federation on 3 December.

World Rugby rules allow a player to represent another country if he has lived there for three consecutive years and has not played for anyone else, although the global governing body is looking to extend the period to five years.

France have become renowned for picking foreign players in recent years as the financial strength of the Top 14 has brought a flood of foreigners into their top division at a time when the national team has been struggling.

In the past five years, France have come fifth four times in the Six Nations and last on the other occasion.

However, virtually all Tier One teams field players who have qualified on residency grounds.

The issue of foreign-qualified players has also been highlighted by the plight of the Pacific Islands - Fiji, Samoa and Tonga - who often lose talented players to the bigger and richer nations.

Some beneficiaries of the residency rule
Josh Strauss: Born in South Africa, the back-rower joined Glasgow in 2012 and has nine caps for Scotland.
CJ Stander: South Africa-born forward who joined Munster in 2012 and now has 10 caps for Ireland.
Nathan Hughes: Fiji-born back rower who joined Wasps in 2013 and has three caps for England.

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