Tadgh Beirne Case Is No Excuse For Wales To Get Shirty Over Borders

Scarlets forward Tadhg Beirne wants to play for Ireland and admits he has to go home to fulfil that ambition. Welsh players who cross borders face the same dilemma, but Robin Davey believes such demands are outmoded and have no place in the modern sporting era.


Yet again the thorny subject of player qualification has reared its head, this time the case of Irish lock Tadhg Beirne hitting the headlines.

He really blossomed under the tutelage of the Scarlets last season, into an international prospect, after being rejected by the Irish provinces.

But although the Scarlets undeniably improved him as a player, he has decided to turn down a new contract and instead return to his native country and bid for Irish honours, something that appears entirely understandable.

This has, however, reignited the debate about a club/region v country clash.

The Irish Rugby Union have decided to invoke a policy where if a player wishes to play for the national team he has to play in his own country.

England have long since adopted a similar policy – as have New Zealand and Argentina, among others.

Wales and Scotland, on the other hand, abide by a different criteria. In Wales there is so-called “Gatland’s Law” – a misnomer which no-one seems to completely understand.

The basic principle seems clear – to allow none but a strictly limited number of players, and in certain circumstances, to ply their trade out of the country and still be picked for the national team.

The Beirne case has resulted in some calling for Wales to adopt a less flexible policy, like  Ireland’s and those others, and these voices are not being heard for the first time, either.

Yet is that not a restraint of trade to some degree? Not in the law of the land maybe, but while it may be the only carrot the WRU possesses in persuading players to remain in Wales, is it not also denying them the opportunity to spread their wings while still playing for their country?

Wales is not exactly so well off for top class players it can afford to be so restrictive.

Liam Williams. Pic: Getty Images.

Already the likes of Liam Williams, Taulupe Faletau, Luke Charteris, George North and Jamie Roberts play elsewhere, to be joined by Dan Biggar next season when he leaves the Ospreys for Northampton.

Leigh Halfpenny and Bradley Davies, on the other hand, have returned to Wales after spells playing in France and England, respectively.

But the point is that is their choice. They have decided to cash in on their ability by earning considerably more money in what is a short rugby-playing career, as well as experiencing life in another country and in different surroundings. They shouldn’t be penalised for making that decision.

It has long been the case that Welsh players, perhaps more than any of their rivals, have decided to chase the money.

Before union went professional it was rugby league which grabbed many of the best players. Without wishing to offend too many folk in the north of England, it was always the money that took them there, rather than the surroundings.

We can go all the way back to Billy Boston, soon to be honoured by the Welsh Charitables, to David Watkins, to John Bevan, John Mantle, Jonathan Davies, Scott Quinnell, Allan Bateman – the list is almost endless. There were so many players who decided to head north and take the cash.

So it is nothing new for players to leave the country of their birth, though for the ones who turned to league in the early days, there was no way back, of course.

In those days rugby union was amateur and once a player was “professionalised” that was the end for anyone hoping to appear for Wales.

But we live in the 21st century. It is now 2017, so why should we deprive a player of his right to play for Wales, simply because he chooses to play in England or France?

A thorny subject indeed, and one destined to be debated more than once in the coming weeks.

A young Jonathan Davies joined Widnes. Pic: Getty Images.

And, talking of current hot topics, the decision of the Dragons and Cardiff Blues to temporarily reinforce their injury-hit squads with players from across the Severn Bridge has also resulted in some controversy.

The Dragons are without a host of backs – Zane Kirchner and Sam Beard out for months while Tyler Morgan, Adam Warren and young Jared Rosser are also sidelined.

So, they have signed USA centre Thretton Palamo, on a short term emergency loan from Bristol and he will be involved immediately in Friday night’s game against Ulster.

Similarly, Cardiff Blues have lost Sam Warburton and Ellis Jenkins to the injury jinx and they have also signed a Bristol player on a short-term loan in flanker Olly Robinson.

The point here is that neither region went into the Welsh Premiership for reinforcements, though that is supposed to be the breeding ground for future regional players.

Instead, they both went to the English Championship to sign players who are not even in Bristol’s senior side. They wouldn’t be released if they were.

But though some players have emerged from the Welsh Premiership, it doesn’t say very much for the current crop that they are not considered good enough to make the step up into the full regional ranks.



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