Rugby

World Rugby's Rejig Of Residency Rules Unlikely To Impact Bundee Aki

World Rugby's Rejig Of Residency Rules Unlikely To Impact Bundee Aki

Connacht centre Bundee Aki is still in line to make his Ireland debut in the Autumn internationals this year, despite World Rugby's plans to extend the length of time it takes a player to gain eligibility through the residency rule.

Former Argentina scrum-half Agustín Pichot made clear his disdain of the rule back when he was appointed vice-chairman of World Rugby back in May 2016, as he made it clear that changes were on the way:

Somebody will kill me, but we need to change it. This is my personal opinion. It's wrong. It should be for life, like in football. I understand maybe a five-year [qualification period] and it has been discussed and I think it will be on the agenda in the next six months.

It has since been discussed, and the five-year rule will likely be implemented in May, which would see Aki need a further two years of residency in Ireland to qualify, however, a "cooling off period" is expected to be implemented to essentially avoid punishing players who would have been eligible this year.

A report on RTE.ie explains that World Rugby are set to offer this grace period to players left in an awkward situation.

At their council meeting in May, World Rugby could vote to extend the residency qualification period that allows players to be naturalised and represent a new nation from three years to five.

But it is understood the game's governing body will include a cooling-off grace period before enforcing any residency-rule extension, to stop players being caught in limbo.

World Rugby's plans will allay fears for a host of players who could have failed to complete residency qualification were a new five-year timescale to come straight into force in May.

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Bundee Aki is yet to officially declare his interest in playing for Ireland, but having held previous meetings with Joe Schmidt it is clear that there is interest from both parties.

Having seen the role that CJ Stander and Jared Payne have played in Ireland's recent successes, there's no question that Aki would be a great addition to the Irish setup, but there are many who are very much against the residency rule as it could block the path to the Irish team for someone who was born or spent the majority of their life in Ireland.

It was one of the main talking points around the 2017 Six Nations, and it's a debate that's no going to go anywhere soon, but you would have to imagine that if Joe Schmidt was given the opportunity to welcome Bundee Aki into his side for the Autumn tests, he'd be happy to take it, regardless of who it may upset.

[via RTE.ie]

Mikey Traynor

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