A Look At Ireland’s Best Project Players As World Rugby Delays Change In Residency Rule

Jason Hennessy

Jason Hennessy

Jason is the editor here at RugbyLAD and a proud Limerick man.
Jason Hennessy

Project players.

World Rugby has moved to delay the proposed residency rule change that would see it extended from three years to five years as a result of the ongoing crisis – with playing time limited over the last few months.

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The original cut-off date for World Rugby’s adjustment, marked for December 31, 2020, has been pushed back 12 months to December 31, 2021.

In a statement, World Rugby said:

“The World Rugby Executive Committee approved an adjustment to Regulation 8 (eligibility) in July to combat the exceptional disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic on the necessary residency criteria for players wishing to qualify for a national union.

“The residency criteria outlined in the regulation is due to increase from 36 consecutive months to 60 consecutive months on 31 December, 2020. In order to be eligible on that basis, players must meet the residency requirement and have represented their union before the cut-off date.”

The move won’t make a difference to Ireland who don’t really have anyone that will benefit having slowly moved away from the whole ‘project player’ business once the new regulation was voted in three years ago.

But they did get some potentially important players in just before the cut-off with Leinster’s James Lowe, Munster trio Chris Cloete, Roman Salanoa and Keynan Knox and Connacht captain Jarrad Butler all eligible over the new few months.

The old three-year rule has been very good to Ireland over the years though, with Irish Rugby understanding its playing pool was very limited at the time, and actively seeking out some real talent overseas that were overlooked by their own nation for whatever reason.

CJ Stander was brought in by Munster at the ripe old age of 22 having been told he wasn’t “big enough” to represent the Springboks despite having impressed at an underage level for his country and being highly-rated by the Bulls.

141 games for Munster, 41 caps for Ireland and 1 British and Irish Lions cap later and Stander is no recognised as one of the best forwards in Europe.

Jared Payne was 25 when he came to Ireland and signed for Ulster, having played for the Chiefs, Crusaders and the Blues in New Zealand and carved out a pretty decent career for himself under Joe Schmidt.

Payne filled a huge Brian O’Driscoll size hole for Ireland in midfield for several years before injuries got the better of him. He was sadly forced to retire at just 32 when is looked like he was going to be Ireland’s new fullback – a position he made his own at Ulster but hung up his boots after becoming a British and Irish Lions in 2017 having played his final game on that tour.

Bundee Aki is currently one of Ireland’s first-choice starting centres and has been for the last three years having impressed with Connacht after signing for them in 2014 thanks to Pat Lam – despite interest from Munster and Leinster.

Aki is regularly one of Ireland’s best players and looks set to continue in midfield when the season resumes. Other notable project players who have made in impression for Ireland include Richardt Strauss, Jean Kleyn and Quinn Roux.

Are you glad to see Ireland move away from project players? Should the rule be changing from three to five years in the first place? Let us know in the comments.