IRB wary of Olympic loophole

2014-09-09 19:13
Brett Gosper (File)

London - The International Rugby Board have insisted on Tuesday they were ready to prevent exploitation of their regulations in a bid to prevent a flood of players switching national allegiance in order to compete at the inaugural sevens tournament at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

Changes to eligibility rules mean a player can represent a country provided they have the correct passport and have not been capped by another team for 18 months.

An appearance in just one Olympic qualification event could lead to a player being selected for that nation's 15-a-side team even though the IRB is trying to reduce the number of 'dual internationals'.

England's Steffon Armitage, the European player of the year and a star back-row forward with French and European champions Toulon, is reportedly considering his options with France for the 2015 World Cup due to England's refusal to pick anyone playing club rugby union overseas.

Other cases could see Australia great George Smith join Tonga.

But IRB chief executive Brett Gosper, speaking in London on Tuesday, said the global governing body was aware of the potential pitfalls.

"There is a regulations committee that will look at all applications for transfer and they will look to see if it's for bona fide sevens reasons," Gosper explained.

"There is a safety net and any transfer will have to be passed by the committee. They will act according to the spirit of the law," the Australian added.

"For example, if we have huge props applying for a career in sevens, then we'll smell a rat.

"That's an obvious example and there will be some cases that are in a grey area, but we want to ensure the integrity of the regulation and the spirit behind it is upheld.

"Any obvious abuses that go counter to that spirit of why we're doing this will be caught in the regulations committee net.

"But players will move in both codes by coming into the sevens game -- that will happen."

Meanwhile Gosper confirmed the IRB is in negotiation with the Rugby Football Union over the staging of Premiership matches during the knock-out phase of the 2015 World Cup in England.

IRB regulations state that no other top-flight rugby should take place while the World Cup is in progress.

But with the global showpiece running from September to October, when the domestic campaign would normally be getting into gear, leading English Premiership clubs are fearful about the prospect of five income free months following a delayed start to the 2015/16 season.

Premiership clubs are in talks with England's governing RFU over a compensation package but one possible solution could be to all Premiership matches to take place from when the World Cup quarter-finals start on October 17.

"Those conversations have been taking place and we're optimistic that we'll come to an agreement that will be good for everyone," Gosper said.

Read more on:    irb  |  olympics 2016  |  rugby

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