International Selection: Who Qualifies as English?

England selection/….My dad’s middle name was Owen, and his family had connections with Wales. As a young lad in the Fifties I was regularly taken by my parents to Rhyl and Llandudno for our holidays. And I frequently played with a rugby ball on the beaches of both resorts. Though I did have the honour of playing for England in both Rugby Union and Rugby League I wonder whether, given the current criteria for international qualification, I might have been able to represent Wales as well.

No, seriously, I’m only joking. But should I be at a time when both codes of rugby are making themselves a laughing stock over their handling of international recognition?

In Rugby Union we have former Castleford RL winger, Denny Solomona, born and bred in New Zealand and having represented Samoa at the 13 a side code, set to pull on an England jersey in June when he joins his adopted country’s tour of Argentina. The Sale Sharks winger qualifies by virtue of the three years residency qualification.

In Rugby League Chris MacQueen, born in Brisbane, bred in Australia and never having visited England, is a member of the England squad to play against Samoa in May this year. The Gold Coast Titans star qualifies by virtue of his father’s birth in England.

At the moment anyone in both codes of rugby can qualify to play for England at international level via a residency qualification of three years – a time span soon set to be extended to five years in a futile attempt to give any resultant international selection greater validity. Nonsensical!

Players should be granted international representation for a country only if they have been born in that country and we should be honest enough to put a limit to the international ambitions of many who today are masquerading in many different jerseys.

It is said that,” It is not where you come from but if you play with your heart and everything you have got.”Well, I’m sure that if I had been selected to play for China at £10,000 per match I would have played with my heart and given everything I had. But surely there would have been no justification for my selection.  

Ray French May 2017