England Jump on the Bandwagon

By Daniel Andruczyk

Last week England jumped on the Pacific Nation stealing band wagon. Willie Manu made himself available for England and he was embraced with open arms. But when you read the various articles on this you see a disturbing trend and attitude towards the English Jersey. Of course its not the first time England has done this, in fact from the home nations there have been other players that defected, or made themselves available.

The Farce

In the past New Zealand and Australia have been the nations that have blatantly abused the international eligibility rules by effectively stealing players from other nations with the temptation of State of Origin and Kangaroos/Kiwis. The majority of these players have been from the Pacific Islands and these nations have been left to fight over the scraps. In the past players like Lote Tuqiri, Fuifui Moimoi and more recently Michael Jennings and Jarryd Hayne have all been guilty of doing the ship jumping.

The RLIF eligibility laws actually are very clear. A player qualifies for a nation if:

  • They are born in that nation and are citizens
  • Have played their first rugby league in that nation
  • Have parent(s) or grandparent(s) from that nation
  • Have lived in the country for a minimum of 3 years
  • Have not played for another nation in a 3 year period from their last international

If any one of these criteria are not met then a player cannot play for another nation till these are met. These are actually pretty standard, most international sports have these or similar rules for playing for nations. Now the difference in Rugby league is that the RLIF does not have a spine to enforce these rules and every year come up with silly amendments that allow players to effectively swap and change as they please and make the international game a joke.

Manu a Pom?

So how does Willie Manu qualify? Well he has been living and playing in the Super League since 2006, so despite being Tongan he “qualifies” for England on residential grounds having lived in England for 5 years now. HOWEVER he played has played for Tonga in that time, most notably in the 2008 World Cup. This has been les than three years ago. So the last point has been broken in the list above. So how does he qualify?

The RLIF in their bizarre wisdom at the end of the World Cup said that, the slate has been wiped and these rules only apply for games that attain to the World Cup. So despite the European Cup, Pacific Cup and $ nations games, players are free to do as they please till the end of the 2011 season when the 2013 World Cup qualifiers start.

Will Manu came out a couple days ago and said that he was flattered that England chose him… I am sorry Willie but there are players out there that would kill to get that test jersey, not be flattered by it. The attitude just shows that his head is not in the right place. If he does not get selected for England in the 4 Nations will he then go back to playing for Tonga in the three test at the end of the year, so all of a sudden he is playing for one country and then another. That is not on!

International Farce

There is an interesting side note to this however. Something that opens International Rugby league open to the worst abuse of these rules in the games history. As I mentioned above, players will be locked into that country once they start playing world cup qualifiers of games. There are only 8 nations that will play in the 2013RLWC qualifiers anyway, Italy, Serbia, Lebanon, USA, Russia, Jamaica, South Africa and Japan. Nations that don’t have many(any) NRL players to call upon, and not ones that would make Australia, New Zealand and England.

The Nations that have automatic qualification Australia, New Zealand, England, France, Papua New Guinea, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and Cook Islands are the nations where the most abuse and swapping and changing happens. Thus players will be able to jump between nations as they please right up to the start of the 2013 World Cup! This makes a complete mockery of the rules, sport and nations.

Conflict of interest

One of the things that people say is that players want to swap to Australia, New Zealand and England because they are the dominant nations. Sure, but the only reason that happens is that these nations poach players by breaking these rules, so they always will have the best players and every other nation gets the scraps, so they will always get trounced. So its a catch 22 the top 3 poach players or get them swapping over because they are the best, the other nations don’t improve as they lose their best players so don’t get games because they get trounced, so their best players swap over to the top 3 making them more dominant and so the other nations get the scraps and don’t get games because they get trounced etc, etc, etc… see where the cycle is. It needs to be broken. Someone in the RLIF finally needs to harden up and break the cycle.

But why has the RLIF board allowed this to happen. Well lets look who we have in there:

Chairman: Colin Love – Australia (ARL/NSWRL/NRL)

Vice-Chairman: Richard Lewis – England (RFL/ESL/RLEF)

Treasurer/Secretary: David Gallop – Australia (NRL)

Executive Member: Ray Haffenden – New Zealand (NZRL)

Development Officer: Tas Baitieri – Australia (ARL/NSWRL)

So its quite easy and evident to see why the top 3 nations get away with things so easily and also why the NRL seems to get away with so much in changing its laws. The eligibility laws, swaps and changes that are allowed are directly done to boost the Kangaroos, Kiwis and England as well as the NSW and QLD teams in State of Origin.

Its the only way that Fuifui Moimoi has been allowed to get away playing for Tonga in 2006, New Zealand in 2008, Tonga in 2008 and New Zealand in 2009, Jarryd Hayne for NSW and Australia in 2007, Fiji 2008 and Australia 2009, Michael Jennings for Tonga and Samoa, Danny Brough swapping from Scotland to England and now Willie Manu from Tonga to England. There are many many others as well over the years. Lote Tuqiri played for Fiji on 2000 in the world cup and then 2001 playing for Australia. Funnily France, though has options with many “imports”, has made sure the they all satisfy the eligibility criteria and so none of the Aussies that are over there have played for another country for in 3 years as the rules stipulate and they all have been resident in France playing for Catalans, Toulouse or one of the Elite teams. But interestingly Bobby Goulding has resisted the temptation of picking them and decided to get a fully French team playing tests. Something he should be commended for.

Anyway, the only way this will be solved is that the RLIF becomes a fully paid, professional  and Independent organisation that is free of the trappings from the top 3 national federations in the sport. I am not saying we can’t have an Australian Kiwi or Brit run it, but they cannot be involved in any way with the ARL, RFL, NZRL, FFRXIII or any other national federation. It needs to be independent, they then need to draw a line and say these are the laws we play by and choose players by. They then need to force them, this is the only way that the sport will go forward on the world stage.

Daniel Andruczyk’s email: daniel@rugbyleagueinternationalscores.com
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