9 Irish Rugby Players That Represented Other Nations At Test Level

By Gary Connaughton

Over the last decade or so, Ireland have made the most of the rules that allowed for foreign-born players to represent the country at test level.

A number of 'project players' moved to provincial sides in Ireland with the hopes of eventually representing the country via the residency rule, with a number of them going on to become key contributors at test level.

Of course, the process can go the other way.

Down through the years, a number of Irish rugby players have represented other nations in international rugby. Some of them did so via the residency rule, while others qualified because of familial ties.

Here are nine such examples.

Irish rugby players that represented other nations

AJ MacGinty (USA)

A Dublin native, AJ MacGinty played at Blackrock before moving to America in his early 20s. From here, he started playing for for NYAC and Life Running Eagles, before being called up to the USA squad in 2015 via the residency rule.

He first came to the attention of many rugby fans in this country during the World Cup that year, featuring in three of their four pool games.

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The out-half signed for Connacht after the tournament, spending three seasons in Ireland before joining Sale Sharks. After six years and over 100 appearances for Sale, the 32-year old joined the Bristol Bears last summer. He has made 35 appearances for the USA.

Ian McKinley (Italy)

Ian McKinley's story is well-known at this stage.

A promising young player at Leinster, he was forced to retire from the sport after losing the sight in his left eye. After moving to Italy to become a coach, the opportunity presented itself to play at a lower level in the country.

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He eventually worked his way up to playing with Zebre and Bennetton, being called up to the Italy squad in 2017 after qualifying through the residency rule. He would earn nine caps for them in total, including playing against Ireland in the Six Nations on a couple of occasions.

Paul Mullen (USA)

A native of the Aran Islands, Paul Mullen was brought into the Munster youth system while he was attending Glenstal Abbey in Limerick. He would never appear for the province at senior level, moving to the States to attend college at Texas A&M at the turn of the last decade.

After earning a degree in marine engineering and playing collegiate and amateur rugby, he would sign with Major League Rugby side Houston SaberCats in 2018.

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Having represented Ireland at U19 and Emerging Ireland level, he received a call-up from the USA in 2018 and featured in all four of their World Cup games the following year.

Now playing with the Utah Warriors, the prop has earned 23 caps at test level.

 

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Dave Gallaher  (New Zealand)

By far the earliest example on this list, Dave Gallaher has a very interesting story.

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The Donegal native emigrated to New Zealand with his family at the age of five in 1878, settling in Auckland as a teenager.

After playing rugby at a local level in Auckland, he was eventually selected to their representative team. After taking a break from the sport to fight in the Boer War at the turn of the century, he was eventually selected by New Zealand in 1903.

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He would go on to make 36 appearances for the All Blacks. Gallaher even travelled back to Ireland for a test match in Dublin during a British Isles tour in 1905, although he would not feature after injuring himself against Scotland in the previous game.

He would later go on to coach New Zealand.

One of the most legendary figures from the early days of rugby in the country, he has been inducted in the World Rugby Hall of Fame and the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame.

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In 2015, a jersey he wore during the 1905 tour would sell for £180,000, nearly ten times the previous record amount for a rugby kit.

Luke Carty (USA)

The brother of Connacht and Ireland outhalf Jack Carty, Luke Carty came through the Connacht academy system before moving to the United States in 2021 to join the newly former LA Giltinis.

The Athlone man qualified to play for the USA via his American-born grandmother and  would be called up by the country for the first time later that year. He has earned four caps at test level up to this point.

Peter Nelson (Canada)

Hailing from Dungannon, Peter Nelson made 60 appearances across eight years during his time with Ulster. He played for Ireland at U20 level, also earning a handful of Emerging Ireland caps.

Having been eligible to represent Canada due to his Vancouver-born grandmother, he would be called up the nation for the first time in 2019. He played for them in the World Cup that year.

The fullback left Ulster to play rugby in America in 2020, lining out for the Seattle Seawolves. Since then, he has taken in spells with US Bressane and Aurillac in France.

John Quill (USA)

Cork man John Quill came through the academy system at Munster, although he would never make an appearance for them at first team level. While playing club rugby with Dolphin in Cork, the opportunity to line out for the USA would present itself.

Qualifying via his American mother, he would be called up the country for the first time in 2012. The flanker would go on to earn 37 caps over the next seven years, playing in two World Cups. That spell would include a red card for a high hit on England's Owen Farrell in the 2019 edition, retiring from the sport after the tournament.

Dylan Fawsitt (USA)

Born in Wexford, Dylan Fawsitt attended Blackrock College where he was part of their 2009 Leinster Schools Senior Cup winning side. Having played his club rugby with Greystones, he moved to America in 2014 to attend Life University.

He would sign with professional club Ohio Aviators in 2016, before then moving to Rugby United New York. Fawsitt was called up by the USA under the residency rule in 2018, making his debut in a win over Brazil.

The hooker was included in their squad for the 2019 World Cup and has earned 18 caps for the country.

Shane O'Leary (Canada)

Shane O'Leary came through the Munster system before making the move to France, joining Grenoble in 2013. He would join Connacht a year later, spending three seasons in Galway.

In 2017, he was called up by Canada. He qualified for the country via his mother. He has since earned 13 caps for the country, making the move to play club rugby across the Atlantic by joining Toronto Arrows last year.

SEE ALSO: Referee Thanked Tadhg Beirne For Genius Piece Of Play To Avoid Penalty

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