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Ireland unlikely to benefit from World Rugby's decision to push controversial residency law back a year

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Ireland head coach Andy Farrell. Photo: Sportsfile

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell. Photo: Sportsfile

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell. Photo: Sportsfile

Ireland are unlikely to derive much benefit from World Rugby’s decision to delay the cut-off point for their controversial three-year residency ruling.

Rugby's governing body made the decision to extend the residency period from three to five years in May 2017, but delayed implementation until the end of 2020 to allow players already committed to contracts fulfil those obligations.

World Rugby has opted to extend that cut-off until the end of next year, meaning players who signed in 2018 can now qualify in 2021 rather than 2023.

The move is a significant boost to Scotland who will bring South African Pierre Schoemann into the fold next season, but Ireland do not have anyone of that calibre in the pipeline.

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Leinster's James Lowe will be available for Ireland selection later this year. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Leinster's James Lowe will be available for Ireland selection later this year. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Leinster's James Lowe will be available for Ireland selection later this year. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Andy Farrell will be able to select Leinster's James Lowe, Connacht’s Jarrad Butler and Munster trio Chris Cloete, Roman Salanoa and Keynan Knox later this year given they arrived before the end of 2017, but the IRFU pivoted away from so-called ‘project players’ after that date and towards signing Irish qualified players born overseas after World Rugby’s decision.

The Irish union has made huge use of the three year residency rule during the past decade, with Richardt Strauss, Bundee Aki, CJ Stander and Jared Payne among the nine players who have represented the country having qualified under the regulation.

The change to the law was led by former Argentina scrum-half Agustin Pichot who lost the contest for World Rugby’s chairmanship during the summer.

And the body took the decision to extend the qualification window by a year at their Executive Committee meeting last month.

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.

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"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.

"Due to the disruption to the international calendar caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, playing opportunities have been significantly affected across the sport’s 127 member unions and eligible players may have been prevented from representing a union on the basis of 36 months residency by the scheduled cut-off date and would therefore automatically move into the 60-month requirement.

"In light of these exceptional circumstances, the Executive Committee, having consulted with unions and International Rugby Players, determined it was appropriate to extend the extend the 36 month residency requirement set out in Regulation 8 to 31 December, 2021.

"The Executive Committee also confirmed that a player must meet both the 36 months residency requirement and have represented the union on or before 31 December, 2021, otherwise the player will fall under the 60-month rule."

Ireland's special projects

CJ Stander (Munster, 41 caps)

Bundee Aki (Connacht, 26)

Jared Payne (Ulster 20)

Richardt Strauss (Leinster, 17)

Nathan White (Leinster, Connacht, 13)

Quinn Roux (Leinster, Connacht, 12)

Jean Kleyn (Munster, 5)

Rodney Ah You (Connacht, Ulster, 3)

Robbie Diack (Ulster, 2)

In the pipeline (qualifying in 2020): James Lowe (Leinster), Jarrad Butler (Connacht), Chris Cloete, Keynan Knox, Roman Salanoa (Munster)


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