England head coach Eddie Jones has gone on the defensive over his squad selection for England’s summer tour of Argentina following his naming of three non-English-born players in his 26-man squad.
The residency rule, used to excellent effect by Ireland, has been in the spotlight in recent months and only last week it was announced by World Rugby that the current three-year residency requirement has been extended to five years.
Now, with 15 of England’s internationals on British and Irish Lions duty this summer, Jones has been presented with an opportunity to get creative and turn over every stone in a bid to find the best talent available to him for England’s Test series with the Pumas next month.
Announced in the side are three who were born as far afield as New Zealand but qualify for England through residency and maternal lineage and, as far as Jones is concerned, that’s more than enough for him.
As quoted on Sky Sports, the Australia native was his usual ‘matter of fact’ self when explaining his inclusion of Gloucester’s Jason Woodward and Willie Heinz and Sale Sharks’ Denny Solomona.
“My job is to pick English-qualified players.
“It doesn’t matter they are born in Tasmania or Timbuktu or New Zealand or Northampton or Bedford.
“I don’t look at where they are born.”
With so many England starters away, Jones is more than happy to give each a chance to prove themselves in the white jersey.
“Willie is a good player. He played Super Rugby well for the Crusaders and he has done well for Gloucester. Given the number of half-backs we have out at the moment, it was a good opportunity to have a look at him.”
Of Woodward, Jones was equally pleased.
“He is an outstanding player. He is really good player.
“He was one of the best players for the Hurricanes when they won the Super Rugby competition. He is a talented boy.
“He wants to play for England but he has got a fair few good players ahead of him so this is a big opportunity for him to put his best foot forward here.”
Finally, of rugby league convert Solomona, Jones is keen to give the former Samoa international his shot.
“He is try-getter. He is a big lump of a lad. He went to rugby league and now has come back and he can give us something a bit different.
“But again he has got some good players ahead of him.”
So while the topic of naturalised foreign nationals continues to be debated within rugby circles, it is clear that Jones is not one to baulk at the chance of bringing in whoever meets both his requirements and those set forth by World Rugby.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena
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