x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Playing for England is not just a birthright

How can you decide which country to play? Paul Radley discusses the grey areas of getting an international cap.

The side who are already regarded by many people as being a team of the Commonwealth, rather than the representatives of England, avoided causing a scene at the Rugby World Cup, after Thomas Waldrom was cut from their squad this week.

The Leicester No 8 lost out when Martin Johnson, the England manager, trimmed his list for September's showpiece by five, with David Strettle, George Chuter, Joe Worsley and James Simpson-Daniel going the same way.

There are many deserving candidates in his squad who were born, raised and learnt and played much of their rugby abroad, but Waldrom's claims to an England shirt were tenuous at best.

The younger brother of All Black Scott Waldrom only left New Zealand, whose second-string Maori side he had represented in the past, in 2010 when he was offered a deal at Leicester.

After his agent had pored over the International Rugby Board's eligibility criteria, he remembered he had an English grandmother, and suddenly he was ready to "do a job" for England.

Had he made the final line up, he might conceivably have been playing alongside three other New Zealand-born players, wearing an all-black playing kit, in a World Cup match in New Zealand for a side calling itself England.

The debate over who should be allowed to play international rugby for whom has plenty of grey areas, but this is one that should always have been black and white.

 

pradley@thenational.ae