Irish clubs to close ranks

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content on 23 Dec 2011 at 09:53
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The Irish Rugby Football Union has passed new regulations that could seriously limit the number of foreign players eligible to represent their top three club sides. Under the new restrictions, set to come into force in time for the 2013 season, Ulster, Leinster and Munster would need to field sides comprising mostly Irish-qualified players.

The move has been taken in order to protect the national side, with concerns that a glut of foreigners picked across the Heineken Cup sides are limiting opportunities for Irish players to make their mark. The new regulations state that only one non Irish-qualified player will be allowed in each position across the three sides; in other words, if Ulster choose to field Johann Muller in the number 5 jersey, then neither Leinster nor Munster will be allowed to have anyone other than an Irishmen in that position.

How this would be enforced is a complete mystery, of course and while the thinking is probably sound, the way the regulation is to be implemented is starting to sound a little like an Irish joke. What it does mean, though, is that we should probably expect to see the end of the the exodus of South African players to these clubs, with the likes of Muller, Ruan Pienaar, Pedrie Wannenberg, Stefan Terblanche, Wian du Preez, BJ Botha, Heinke van der Merwe and others now facing somewhat of an uncertain future. No mention has been made of players who hope to qualify for Irish selection, such as Richardt Strauss and Steven Sykes, but you’d have to imagine that they too would probably fall foul of this regulation.

Former Stormers loose forward Robbie Diack, having recently qualified through residence, is about the only current South African player in Ireland who can be sure that his job is safe. Countless other foreign players, mostly from New Zealand, will presumably find themselves in a similar position.


  • The principle behind it is very good, ie have a fully grown team of local players and enhance the national Irish team, but there is not much thought to have gone into this whole thing.

    The problem for Irish clubs is they do not have any depth, maybe Leinster disregarded. The teams will crumble, particularly Munster and Ulster. The reason these clubs sign foreign stars is because they cannot plug the gaps themselves with local players or enough quality. Munster have John Hayes, who must be about 38 years old and gets consistently folded like a deck chair every single game he plays, so they had to sign BJ Botha.

    Also if their teams become weaker im sure local stars that are very talented, and world class, will disappear to France for better weather, more cash and a more competitive teams.

    It will stop the exodus of players to Ireland, though i think they will simply switch their destination to England, Japan and France.

  • Comment 1, posted at 23.12.11 10:10:45 by Pat Reply
  • Sounds rather difficult to enforce.

    If Munster have a South African playing on the wing, then why should the other clubs not be allowed to have a foreigner on the wing? Who decides which team is allowed to have the foreigner playing?

    An easier rule to implement would be that only 3 – 5 foreign players should be picked in any starting 22 or they could try something similar to what the French clubs are doing.

    This will lead to a weakening of the Irish club sides but it should let some of the average Irish come through because the clubs have no one else.

    The Irish have difficulty replacing injuries in their regular 22 so I have no idea how they would plug the gaps left by the foreign players.

  • Comment 2, posted at 23.12.11 11:28:34 by lostfish Reply
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  • They could implement this as a “position draft” similar to a player draft. Each pre-season the lowest rank Irish club get first choice on a position they would like to fill with a foreign player, next lowest get next pick, etc…

    Similar to the NFL draft, these position choices can then be used for leverage by lower ranked clubs.

  • Comment 3, posted at 23.12.11 12:18:46 by vanmartin Reply
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  • For those asking how this will be enforced, what will happen is that when a foreign player is signed, the club must designayted him as a wing, outside centre, TH prop, etc…

    It’s worth bearing in mind that the rule about signing players will only come into play in the 2013/ 2014 season, so those plying their trade there now are safe until then, and may even be signed on long contracts before then.

    Agree it is a fairly silly thing to do when they could have opted for maximum number of non-Irish qualified players in the match 22.

    The dearth of Irish props runs through even to junior levels, they should be looking at their coaching problems at and below them.

  • Comment 4, posted at 23.12.11 13:30:15 by LordHope Reply

  • Designate as opposed to ‘designayted’

  • Comment 5, posted at 23.12.11 13:33:33 by LordHope Reply

  • @LordHope (Comment 4) : Talking about Irish props, I’ve always wondered how they let Census Johnson slip thru their fingers.

  • Comment 6, posted at 23.12.11 16:35:05 by beet Reply
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