Followers of Top 14 and Champions Cup rugby will be familiar with the name David Smith. Amongst a star-studded team of internationals, Smith was the sole star in the Toulon starting line-up who has never played international rugby.
The Samoan-born star left New Zealand before making any international appearances, before his career took off as one of Toulon's best players. The winger, now at Castres has been in France long enough to qualify for France under the residency rule. As a result, head coach Guy Noves called him up as one of the 32 players for this week's game against Wales.
— France Rugby (@FranceRugby) February 21, 2016
Except there is one small problem.
— Paul Eddison (@pauleddison) February 21, 2016
Smith isn't eligible to qualify for France under the residency rules despite never playing international rugby.
The World Rugby rules state that playing for any of a countries first two national teams (aka, the senior team, and the A team usually) as well as their sevens team ties them to that country. David Smith is a New Zealand sevens international from 2008. Smith even won the sevens series title with New Zealand that season, via worldrugby.org:
Ollie Phillips slipped a tackle to bring the score back to 19-14 but the kiwis' renowned fitness, conditioning and peerless defence saw them home, captain DJ Forbes an inspiration up front and the likes of Kendrick Lynn and David Smith proving that coach Gordon Tietjens has lost none of his knack for unearthing new talent.
Because sevens is now in the Olympics, there is a loophole that allows players previously tied to one country via sevens to switch allegiances (eg. Tim Nanai Williams). To do that, Smith would have had to play for the French sevens in an Olympic qualifying event - which he hasn't done yet.
Unlucky France, but the rest of the Six Nations can breath a sigh of relief - for now.
— Jérémy Marot (@JeremyMarot) February 21, 2016
A replacement will be announced on Monday.
David Smith pas éligible avec le XV de France. Son remplaçant annoncé lundi matin #AFP
— Jeremy Marot (@JeremyMarot) February 21, 2016