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IRB will not change residency rules

World rugby bosses will not clamp down on stars like Wasps' Nathan Hughes qualifying to represent England through residency, as Pacific Island nations battle to retain their top talents.

Number eight Hughes will be eligible to represent England, Fiji or Samoa if he stays at Wasps for two more years under current residency rules.

IRB chiefs will not alter the three-year residency qualification period that allows stars to relocate across the globe and then launch international careers.

The choice between prioritising patriotism or career gain must remain with individuals, according to IRB chief executive Brett Gosper.

Hughes joined Wasps from Auckland last summer and has proved one of the Aviva Premiership's stand-out stars.

The Fiji-born 21-year-old could be in England's ranks for Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan, and Gosper said there are no plans to stop others following suit.

"These aren't issues that we can really look at, there are huge market forces in play in both Hemispheres, and players have got to be able to ply their trade where they want to ply their trade," said Gosper.

"We obviously don't want to see a concentration of players in one or two markets, we like the fact there's a good even competition throughout the world.

"So we like that balance.

"But there's little we can do about it from an IRB perspective.

"Certainly the local unions can make it interesting for the players to stay in their own market, and I think the lure of international rugby still has a very strong hold on the top players.

"The view is the capture ages are pretty high, so players at that stage should know what the implications of their choices are.

"They are usually well advised, well surrounded, they can get access to information, so that capture level would seem to be mature enough."

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen criticised young stars seeking to qualify for international recognition in Europe, after Chiefs centre Bundee Aki signed a three-year deal to join Connacht in the summer.

The 24-year-old has made no secret he will aim to complete residency requirements and chase an international career with Ireland, despite at times pushing the fringes of the All Blacks set-up.

When asked if players should be left with the choice between favouring market forces and patriotism, Gosper said: "Well that's a good way of putting it actually, that's their decision.

"And it's a tough decision too, and we recognise that."

If Wasps loose-forward Hughes opts for and represents England over time, Gosper said that should also remain an individual decision.

"That's his choice, at the end of the day it's totally his choice," he said.

"He can make that choice as he wishes and that's something we can't affect.

"If he wants to make a choice to play for Fiji as his nominated country then he can do that.

"But if he complies to the residency rule in another country, he can also make that choice too.

"That's how it currently stands and it's not under discussion currently to be changed.

"At the same time some of these players playing outside of their country is adding to the competitiveness of those nations.

"Fijians, Tongans, Samoans and so on are gaining the skills and traits to play at the top level from the clubs they're playing at as well."


From Belfast Telegraph