The Residency Rule Change Could Have A Major Effect On The Player Market This Summer

World Rugby has voted to increase the required residency period to be eligible for international rugby from three to five years.

The sport’s global governing body approved the recommended extension at at a council meeting held in Kyoto ahead of the Rugby World Cup 2019 draw yesterday.

It is hoped that raising the level from 36 to 60 months will safeguard the playing resources of smaller nations – particularly the Pacific Island teams – by discouraging their stars from pledging allegiance to other countries.

The reformed Regulation 8 ensures that a player has a genuine, close, credible and established link with the nation of representation, and the key amendments are:

  • The 36-month residency requirement is increased to 60 months with effect from 31 December, 2020 (unanimously approved)
  • The addition of a residency criteria which permits players who have 10 years of cumulative residency to be eligible (effective May 10, 2017) (unanimously approved)
  • Unions may no longer nominate their U20s team as their next senior national representative team (effective 1 January, 2018) (majority)
  • Sevens players will only be captured for the purposes of Regulation 8 where the player has represented either of (i) the senior national representative sevens team of a union where the player has reached the age of 20 on or before the date of participation; or (ii) the national representative sevens team of a union in the Olympic Games or Rugby World Cup Sevens, having reached the age of majority on or before the date of participation in such tournament (effective 1 July, 2017) (majority)

Now the key thing we’re gonna look at here is the fact that the 36-month residency requirement is increased to 60 months with effect from 31 December, 2020. This means any players that come in this summer as ‘project’ players will still be eligible in three years, just making it in before the eligibility window closes.

New Zealander James Lowe for example, who arrives at Leinster after the 2017 Super Rugby season from the Chiefs, would be eligible to play for Ireland by autumn 2020, getting in before the December 31st 2020 cut-off.

Any player that arrives between now before the December 31st cut-off point will be eligible in three years. Anyone after that will have to wait five. This means we could see a very busy market this summer as countries look to sign up talent before the deadline.

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