With all of the talk in the media about international eligibility sparking fans’ interest it seemed appropriate to create an international XV made up of the best Test players who have qualified for their adopted nation on residency grounds.
Some of these players have been in their new country less time than some students have been on their university courses, but the current eligibility rules state that a player can qualify for any nation if previously uncapped if they have spent three or more consecutive years living in that place.
For the purposes of this exercise, only players who qualified on residency were selected and not on parentage or grandparentage. Additionally, where possible, only players who currently still play for their nation have been selected.
Without further ado, here is the lineup:
1. Tendai Mtawarira
Born and bred in neighbouring Zimbabwe, Tendai qualified for South Africa having played for the Sharks for several seasons dating back to 2007.
However, his selection caused a rift between the SARU and South Africa’s government, who wanted all South African athletes to hold a South African passport. The Beast was subsequently granted his in 2009.
2. Stephen Moore
Stephen Moore might seem like the archetypal Australian, but he was born in Saudi Arabia to Irish parents. His family moved to Queensland in 1988 when he was just five years old.
Although he grew up in the land of green and gold, Moore technically only qualified on residency. If anything, this highlights the dynamic population of Australia that has been built on waves of immigration from Europe and Asia.
3. WP Nel
South African-born Nel moved to Edinburgh in 2012 and qualified for Scotland on residency grounds and first played for his adopted side against Italy in the 2015 summer test series.
Nel is now making himself something of a stalwart for Scotland and has already earned himself eleven caps.
4. Mouritz Botha
With bleach-blonde hair inspired by the Lewis Moody School of Fashion, Botha first came to England in 2006 when he signed for Bedford Blues. However, it wasn’t long before he caught the attention of then-Saracens coach Brendan Venter and signed for Saracens in 2009.
Having impressed Stuart Lancaster in the Saxons set-up in 2011, Botha went on to make his full England debut in the 2012 Six Nations, finishing with ten caps. Botha now plays for Premiership side Newcastle Falcons.
5. Luke Thompson
A New Zealand native, Thompson signed for Japanese club side Sanyo Wild Knights in 2004 and qualified on residency grounds for Japan in 2007.
After living in the land of the rising sun for seven years, he earned his Japanese citizenship in 2011. Thompson will always be remembered for being at the heart of Japan’s shock victory over South Africa in the 2015 World Cup.
6. Jerome Kaino
All Blacks legend Kaino was born in American Samoa and moved his with family at the age of four to New Zealand. He has so far won 67 caps for the world’s best team and has been an integral part of their march to double World Cup success.
7. David Pocock
A man with more muscle than Popeye and better fetching abilities than a pack of Crufts-winning golden retrievers, David Pocock is arguably Australia’s most important player and a key cog in their run to the 2015 World Cup final.
Pocock was born in Zimbabwe and did not move with his family until he was 14 years old. One does have to wonder how good Zimbabwe could be if they had the rugby infrastructure to maintain a top test team.
8. Billy Vunipola/Taulupe Faletau
Rather than risking the rage of crowds of apoplectic Welsh or English fans holding burning torches and pitchforks, this writer has chickened out and named both England’s Billy Vunipola and Wales’ Toby Faletau at number eight. You can pick which one you’d go for, but both qualified for their countries on residency.
In fact, Vunipola has spent more time in Wales than England, after moving there with his father – former Tongan captain Fe’ao Vunipola – who was playing in Wales at the time. Faletau, Vunipola’s cousin, has a similar story, with his father Kuli also playing in Wales previously.
Australia’s scrum half, Will Genia, was born in Papua New Guinea and moved with his family to Queensland when he was 12 and has since established himself as one of the best 9s in the game.
He has earned 66 caps and still has a lot of gas left in the tank. Papua New Guinea is better known for its rugby league players than anything, but Genia follows in the footsteps of another legendary Aussie scrum-half, George Gregan, who was born in Zambia and moved to Australia when he was two.
10. Quade Cooper
Quade Cooper – who has stolen the hearts of many rugby fans in his career with his exciting brand of rugby – is arguably about as Australian as the haka, having been born in Auckland and later moved to Brisbane when he was 13.
However, Cooper has gone on to earn 58 caps for his adopted country and always enjoys a fierce battle against his old home, New Zealand.
11. Tim Visser
Visser, aka The Flying Dutchman, qualified for Scotland on residency grounds having played for Edinburgh for three years.
However, Netherlands-born Visser originally set his sights on playing for England having signed for Newcastle Falcons and was at one time named in England’s ‘Intermediate National Academy’ before his move further up north. He has since won 24 caps for Scotland and recently signed for English club Harlequins.
12. Malakai Fekitoa
New Zealand’s second five-eighth was born in Tonga and moved to New Zealand having gained a sports scholarship to Wesley College in Auckland. He was a member of New Zealand’s 2015 World Cup-winning squad. Fekitoa also won the Super Rugby title with the Highlanders back in 2015.
13. Jared Payne
Yet another New Zealander, Payne was born in Tauranga and played for both the Chiefs and the Crusaders in the southern hemisphere’s Super Rugby competition before signing for Ulster in 2011.
Such was his impact at Ravenhill that he was quickly touted as a future Ireland star once his residency period was completed. He made his Test debut against South Africa back in 2014.
14. Virimi Vakatawa
France seem to be increasingly relying on foreign-born imports within their national squads and Vakatawa is the latest. He is a Fijian-born winger who until recently was part of the France Sevens squad.
His performances in this year’s Six Nations have earned him rave reviews and a number of Europe’s top clubs and regions have come calling.
15. Scott Spedding
With a penchant for alliteration, France also called-up Scott Spedding, a South Africa-born full-back who currently plays for Clermont Auvergne.
He originally made a name for himself at Brive and after living in the country for seven years, gained French citizenship in 2014. Interestingly, he went to the same school as Britain’s Kenya-born Tour de France champion Chris Froome.
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena
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