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RFU to consider five-year residency rule for England players

The Rugby Football Union will consider imposing its own five-year residency rule on England if World Rugby fails to increase the existing level for eligibility.

France have taken the lead in one of the most controversial elements of the game by declaring they will only select those who hold a French passport in the hope it will reverse the national team's reliance on overseas-born players.

A player currently becomes eligible once they have lived in a country for three years but a campaign led by World Rugby vice-chairman Agustin Pichot is seeking to raise the level by a further 24 months in the hope it will enable less wealthy nations to retain their best talent.

The sport's global governing body will vote on whether to change the rule at its biannual council meeting in May, and RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie has made England's position clear.

"Our view will be that a five-year qualification is the optimum position to be in. We feel that an increase from three to five years is absolutely the route to go down and that's what we'd support," Ritchie said.

"There are other countries who will take a different view on that I think, and that's up to them. We'll see how that goes.

"In an ideal world there would be universality of regulation and there's a helpful way of dealing with this, and that's by moving the World Rugby regulation from three to five.

"We'll wait until the debate at World Rugby and see if we can move it from three to five years and then we'd review it after that. If it stays at three then we'd have to think again and review it."

Last autumn England gave starts to Nathan Hughes and Semesa Rokoduguni, both of whom were born in Fiji but qualified for Eddie Jones' men having lived on these shores for three years.

Other nations have relied more heavily on overseas-born players and will oppose any adjustment to the eligibility rule.

"We commit from the position of a large playing base, as do France, and a large number of people to select from, so some people will say you can afford to be hard line on this particular issue," Ritchie said.

"If you have a small playing base and you don't have highly competitive international players, then I could well understand why somebody would like it to be less than that. Our position will be the five years."

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