My second favourite team
Ireland happens to be my second favourite Rugby Union team, after that of Wales. It gave me no pleasure to read a fascinating story about a row brewing up between the rugby authorities, as reported in Wales on line.
Toby Faletau is unwittingly at the centre of an eligibility row between Wales and Ireland. The Wales No 8, who made his debut against the Barbarians a fortnight ago, finds himself embroiled in an eligibility dispute which the International Rugby Board has been asked to rule on. Two of Faletau’s Wales Under-20s team-mates, Matthew Jarvis and James Loxton are dual-qualified for Wales and Ireland.Former Ospreys back Jarvis and [Cardiff] Blues rookie Loxton agreed contracts with Irish province, Connacht, earlier this year only on the understanding they were eligible to play for Ireland
Turns out that Tongan Toby was brought up in Wales (so he’s Welsh, see?). But Matthew has an Irish mum and James has an Irish grandmother. These claims have been accepted as part of Ireland’s Grannies strategy. But as happens in things Celtic, it all got a bit more complicated.
The Under-20s is not the A team
Acute readers (and which LWD subscriber is not acute?) will have noticed mention of the three playing for the Welsh Under-20s team. So Wales get to keep Matthew and James? No, because The Under-20s is not the A team.
Irish club Connaught snap up the two on the understanding that Under-20s play is not automatic recognition of a claim on nationality.
The WRU claim that the Wales Under-20 side is now their second-string side, with the A-team being disbanded, and that any player who plays at that level commits themselves to Wales. But it is claimed that Faletau, who was born in Tonga but has resided in Wales since the age of seven, was the only player told his appearance for Wales Under-20s committed his Test future to Wales. While Loxton, who qualified for Ireland through his mother, and Jarvis, who qualifies via an Irish grandmother, claim they were never told playing for Wales Under-20s committed them to Wales.
Creative strategy needed
Anyone with suggestions or a creative strategy for resolving this issue get in touch with the Irish or Welsh rugby union boards according to your nationality.
Update [Nov 2011]
Toby Faletau was one of the stars of the successful Welsh team in the World Cup in New Zealand. His international future looks rosy (but definitely not Irish green).
Update [Jan 2012]
A similar case bubbles up over the nationality and international status of Steve Shingler, hotly persued by Scotland and Wales.