Rugby World Cup: second-hand internationals and more foreigners than ever in the usual teams

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Malakai Fekitoa and Charlie Faumuina, world champions with New Zealand in 2015, make their World Cup debut in France… with their new teams. The three-quarter Fekitoa goes with Tonga, where he himself was born. The first line Faumuina, with Samoa, where his father was born. Precisely for having lifted the title with los All Blacksboth embody the most talked about examples of a casuistry that returns to rugby: second-hand internationals. Fifteen elite players who have defended the colors of one team and in France 2023 wear the shirt of another.

His reappearance on the global stage has been possible thanks to a regulatory change by the International Federation (World Rugby) for all players who have not featured in the national team with which they debuted for three years. Now they can be linked to their native country, that of their parents or that of their grandparents, or also to the country where they have resided permanently for five years.

This second life implies, in reality, a rectification. Because in 2002 the “only one selection” principle was implemented precisely to put an end to a certain movement of globetrotters inherited from the amateur era. The change provides a new opportunity for players who debuted and disappeared. Passing internationals, tried and then forgotten. Faumuina is, in this specific aspect, an exception: he added 50 appearances with New Zealand.

In an already globalized world, Borders are an even more ethereal concept within the peculiar oval planet. It is not only governed by citizenship, but also by family background and residence. And these reinternational They give another twist to the incorporation of foreigners to strengthen the national teams.

According to the data collected by Paul Tait in Americas Rugby News, of the 660 players -33 per squad- who started the World Cup in France, 158 (23.9%) represent a country other than the one of their birth. In 2019 there were 144 and in 2015, 130. The study highlights the specific weight of New Zealand. In addition to their selection, another 56 athletes born there are distributed among the rest. Almost two entire calls. But at the same time, even the acclaimed All Blacks succumb to the search for human resources abroad. Nine men in black were not born on their islands.

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