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Bending their rules to suit

JOEY BARTON riled some Irish people with his comments about English-born footballers who subsequently wore the green shirt. But England have also capitalised on the abilities of those born overseas.

Alan McLoughlin yesterday cited the example of Jamaican-born John Barnes, who had a long career for England, and Owen Hargreaves is a more recent example. The injury-jinxed midfielder grew up in Canada, before learning the ropes in Germany. He had a Welsh mother and English father, and chose the latter, winning 42 caps.

The English rugby authorities have been happy to call on the services of individuals from other parts of the world. Manu Tuilagi is a recent example -- five of his brothers play for Samoa. New Zealand-born duo Riki Flutey and Shontayne Hape have also figured for England on the grounds of residency rather than family link.

Plenty of examples in this code.

English captain Andrew Strauss is South African-born, and Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott and Matt Prior also hail from that part of the world. Pietersen was accused of saying: ''I'm not English, I just work here'' in a diary published by Australia's Ed Cowan. And, they've also been happy to call on the services of Irishmen Eoin Morgan and Ed Joyce.

Britain's Dutch head coach, Charles van Commenee, recently said: ''If they knock on our door and say 'I have a British passport, I can run this fast and jump this far' then we'll select them." Plenty of athletes have changed nationality under this rule.

Irish Independent