Cape Town – The vexing matter of rugby players from abroad earning Test caps for their adopted countries has reared its head again, with France seemingly divided over the claims of Krugersdorp-born Scott Spedding.
The former Sharks fullback, 28, made his debut against Fiji last weekend amid some ruffled feathers in France -- and a report in the Sydney Morning Herald (http://smh.com.au/rugby-union/union-news) Thursday suggests these will only increase if he makes the cut for the bigger assignment against Australia this weekend.
Writer Chris Dutton quotes legendary former French No 15 Emile Ntamack as saying he is “completely against” foreigners in the national side – France already boasts Spedding’s fellow South Africans Rory Kockott and Bernard le Roux of late, plus New Zealand-born front-ranker Uini Atonio.
The 46-cap Ntamack added: “I think the France team should remain the preserve of French players, even if I played with some super guys like Pieter de Villiers (now the Springbok scrum coach) and (New Zealander) Tony Marsh.”
The report claims the presence of international players has caused “unrest” in French rugby ranks.
“Former Wallabies Matt Giteau, Drew Mitchell, Digby Ioane, James O’Connor and Peter Kimlin are among a host of Australian players playing in France; there are plenty of South African and New Zealand expats as well.
“Some fear their presence has hurt French rugby’s ability to compete with the best Test teams in the world because the development of local talent is being pushed aside.”
Spedding qualifies through residency as he first joined Brive (he currently represents Bayonne) six years ago and received his French passport three weeks ago.
The player himself has defending his call-up, saying “I am French” and that he already knows the French anthem, the Marseillaise.
Most of his recent Tweets (@Scott_Spedding) are written in French.
The article quotes French rugby president Pierre Camou as calling for calm: “I find it deeply troubling. Scott Spedding is French. Does he have the right to play or not?
“Are there some origins that count or not? We have to stop the dispute. We didn’t ask questions before ... in 1995 (at the SA-staged World Cup) the France captain was Moroccan (Abdelatif Benazzi). That didn’t trouble anyone.”
*Sport24 has contacted the Bok camp in London for possible comment on the issue from Pieter de Villiers.
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing