Wednesday 26 July 2017

The residency rule is changing to five years - but loophole means Ireland can still benefit before it does

James Lowe of Maori All Blacks during the match between Munster and the New Zealand Maori All Blacks at Thomond Park
James Lowe of Maori All Blacks during the match between Munster and the New Zealand Maori All Blacks at Thomond Park
Will Slattery

Will Slattery

Today in Japan the World Rugby Council voted to extend the residency requirements from three years to five years, which will significantly curtail the number of players lining out for international countries of which they have no ancestral ties to.

Ireland is one of many sides to have benefited from the rule in recent years, with two of their 2017 Lions, CJ Stander and Jared Payne, qualifying through the residency rule.

Read more: World Rugby extends residency rule to five years to end 'project players'

Today's vote means that a player will need to spend five seasons - 60 months - in a country to become eligible, but the new rule won't come into effect until 31 December 2020, meaning that players signed for next season, as well as project players currently plying their trade away from home, will still be able to qualify under the old three year residency rule.

From an Irish perspective, it means that Connacht centre Bundee Aki and Munster out-half Tyler Bleyendaal are two players who will be able to wear the green jersey from this November.

And looking ahead, incoming Leinster wing James Lowe, who has been in scintillating Super Rugby form for the Chiefs, will be able to play for Ireland before the deadline passes, if he stays for three seasons.

After that, Ireland will be back to relying on their academy structures to produce international talent, and luckily for supporters, those reserves look well stocked over the next few years.

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