Special Project Players

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Special Project Players

Postby simonokeeffe » October 26th, 2016, 9:13 pm

So ROC/Indo did another heres an entire team of project players we could be fielding at some point wont someone please think of the children

Ludik, Poolman, Payne, Aki, Lli, TB, JGP, Ah You, Strauss, Herbst, Roux, Kleyn, Diack, Heenan, Stander

Now between tours during Lions years, the easy AI every year, amount of subs etc getting A cap is not so special anymore IMO, its the guys getting 10+ caps that matter

But of this swarm of immigrants projects
Ludik, Lli (on one year deal), Kleyn, Diack are being well kept out of their provinces starting team by Irish players, Poolman has zero chance
Ah You and Herbst and maybe even Roux have flip all chance of getting into an Ireland test side (again)
Heenan has to shoulder past SOB, JVDF, Leavy, TOD, Henry (we wont mention Fox Matamua or the Munster hooker Marshall)
JGP has a long way to go literally and figuratively

So that leaves Payne, Aki,TB, Stander, Strauss, and also McCartney
TB has to wait for Johnny to shuffle off and then just contend with Jackson and Carberry
Theres also a lot of competition for hooker and Strauss cant have much longer left with injury
Realistically that leaves us with 3-5 project players in our 23 for next season or 2019

My points are:
A. The foreign invasion is overplayed
B. It should be 5 years not 3 but nearly everyone else is doing it/has done it
3. How many is too many (in a 23)? Personally I think 5 is not on, 3 is ok
When he spreads his legs like that youd need dynamite or the Highland Light Infantry to shift him.
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Re: Special Project Players

Postby neiliog93 » October 26th, 2016, 10:13 pm

My first post will be long and will address one pressing aspect of this topic, my second post will address it in relation to Ireland.

My main concern regarding the foreign player rule isn't the Irish team, it's the fact that the French clubs and to a lesser extent Australian and New Zealand scouts are abusing the rules with teens (and eve pre-teens!) in Fiji, Samoa and Tonga. They're exploiting the lack of development in the islands to get guys in who are uniquely genetically gifted in the world for rugby (don't want to get racialised on the topic but it's just a fact). With some (weak) rules limiting the number of foreign players for Top 14 clubs, it makes sense for them to get these guys in at 17 and have them French-qualified by 20. There was a very good article on the BBC site about this recently, look it up.

We in Ireland have 4 teams from which foreign players can qualify - the more moneyed French leagues have over 20 professional teams. Ben Tameifuna, the 24 yr old, 142 kg phenomenon at Racing Métro, is going to play for France. The 24 yr old, 6'7" 136 kg South African second row monster we saw in Montpellier, Paul Willemse, is likely to play for France. Look at Vakatawa, Nakataici, Suta, Vahamaaina, etc. Those guys weren't necessarily scouted as teens but ultimately were all stolen from the Pacific Island nations.

There is a CRUCIAL point here. It is one thing to get guys who were ultimately rejected by their home nations (Payne, Strauss, Stander etc), but it's quite another to get young guys in on big contracts from poor countries before they've been capped, when those poor countries would love to have these super talented athletes in their squads. In the Irish examples you give 'rejects' a chance at international rugby, in the French examples with islanders you essentially exploit your economic power in a way that is unfair, exploitative and ultimately neo-colonial.

It may also be wrong when (relatively geographically proximate) New Zealand private schools poach islander teens who then go on to play for the All Blacks, but it's even more exploitative when you have English and particularly French agents and academies literally mining a place thousands and thousands of miles away for talent, some of which will eventually represent those countries internationally. The problem for us is that France and England stand to gain the most from residency rules because they have so many professional teams, therefore more foreign players, and therefore more project players.

Now, let's look at England. Manu Tuilagi was almost deported before he played for England because his residency permit from his mid-teens was a forgery. Nathan Hughes is 24, Fijian, arguably a bigger beast than Vunipola, and qualifies for England this Autumn. They poached Rokodeguni from Fiji. The Vunipola brothers were born in Australia to Tongan parents (their dad was the captain of the Tonga rugby team), they grew up in Wales before in their late teens getting rugby scholarships for a private English school. Then after school they were immediately granted places in English rugby academies. I think it's perfectly fair for them to play for Wales, living there from childhood is a legitimate reason to qualify for a country, but they should not be playing for England.

I accept that there are grey areas here too. Pichot has suggested lengthening the residency qualifying period to 5 years and this is a step in the right direction, although the Fiji Sevens coach has said this would probably have the effect of making French agents start looking for talent at even younger ages than they are already...they'd literally be going to the national u-13 championship games rather than u-18 or u-15 as they are now.

Could you make it so that the qualifying period is 5 years, AND make a rule whereby the original country or countries for which the player qualifies have 'first dibs' on the player, and if they wish to select him they thus block the adopted country from having access? An element of coercion there but it's the only way to stop the exploitation. That and get some funding together for a Pacific Super Rugby franchise. Say for example Ireland wanted to pick Payne after 5 years, and the All Blacks consented by not picking him in their squad, it would be allowed. But if France tried to play Willemse after 5 years, the Saffers would have the option of blocking it, but only if they picked him in their squad AND capped him in the same international window/the one immediately following his French call-up.
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Re: Special Project Players

Postby Dave Cahill » October 26th, 2016, 10:35 pm

Just to point out that Suta and Vahamaaina are actually french, thanks to the remnants of the Empire that still adheres to the Republic
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Re: Special Project Players

Postby jimbobjoe » October 26th, 2016, 10:52 pm

neiliog93 wrote:Could you make it so that the qualifying period is 5 years, AND make a rule whereby the original country or countries for which the player qualifies have 'first dibs' on the player, and if they wish to select him they thus block the adopted country from having access? An element of coercion there but it's the only way to stop the exploitation. That and get some funding together for a Pacific Super Rugby franchise. Say for example Ireland wanted to pick Payne after 5 years, and the All Blacks consented by not picking him in their squad, it would be allowed. But if France tried to play Willemse after 5 years, the Saffers would have the option of blocking it, but only if they picked him in their squad AND capped him in the same international window/the one immediately following his French call-up.


How many Isa Nacewa's would you end up with then? It also opens the door for some nations engaging in dodgy dealing with others (more so).
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Re: Special Project Players

Postby Fan with smartphone » October 26th, 2016, 10:59 pm

simonokeeffe wrote:So ROC/Indo did another heres an entire team of project players we could be fielding at some point wont someone please think of the children

Ludik, Poolman, Payne, Aki, Lli, TB, JGP, Ah You, Strauss, Herbst, Roux, Kleyn, Diack, Heenan, Stander

Now between tours during Lions years, the easy AI every year, amount of subs etc getting A cap is not so special anymore IMO, its the guys getting 10+ caps that matter

But of this swarm of immigrants projects
Ludik, Lli (on one year deal), Kleyn, Diack are being well kept out of their provinces starting team by Irish players, Poolman has zero chance
Ah You and Herbst and maybe even Roux have flip all chance of getting into an Ireland test side (again)
Heenan has to shoulder past SOB, JVDF, Leavy, TOD, Henry (we wont mention Fox Matamua or the Munster hooker Marshall)
JGP has a long way to go literally and figuratively

So that leaves Payne, Aki,TB, Stander, Strauss, and also McCartney
TB has to wait for Johnny to shuffle off and then just contend with Jackson and Carberry
Theres also a lot of competition for hooker and Strauss cant have much longer left with injury
Realistically that leaves us with 3-5 project players in our 23 for next season or 2019

My points are:
A. The foreign invasion is overplayed
B. It should be 5 years not 3 but nearly everyone else is doing it/has done it
3. How many is too many (in a 23)? Personally I think 5 is not on, 3 is ok


A. Yes, it is.
B. I think longer than a World Cup cycle is a good idea. Possibly playing underage internationally could tie you to a country too.
3. If you accept the concept for one person, then I can't see how 3 or 5 players or any number is too many, other than for your own uneasiness. And (no offence) that's not a good enough reason. People who have a right to represent Ireland should have just as much chance to do so as anyone else.

The focus should be developing from within. No doubt about it. Some of the players from the u20 international squads who don't make the academies are serious players. The potential of the AIL is now starting to be tapped too. Cynical poaching of players, particularly children, I am not comfortable with that. But if someone comes here to genuinely make their life, then I am happy to wish then well and treat them as Irish men or women. Particularly so when they are citizens as some of the players above are.
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Re: Special Project Players

Postby neiliog93 » October 26th, 2016, 11:32 pm

Dave Cahill wrote:Just to point out that Suta and Vahamaaina are actually french, thanks to the remnants of the Empire that still adheres to the Republic


Fair enough, add in Uini Antonio instead.

I like the idea of playing for a country at u-20 level tying you to them for life, but the issue there is that promising Pacific players might reject playing for their own countries at that level in such a scenario (assuming all other rules applying to project players remained the same). I don't see how my proposal would induce shady dealings between countries at all though.

In relation to Ireland specifically, I think you've underplayed a couple of those guys.

1) We don't have huge depth at tighthead with Ross on the wane, and Ah You is relatively young and improving all the time. He's fitter now and a powerful ball carrier, and his scrummaging is now 'solid' but far from destructive. Can see him being involved in the future.

2) Rhys Marshall had a brilliant debut season in Super Rugby and a good u-20 level career, he's just had bad injuries. If he stays injury free he'll almost certainly play for Ireland.

3) Roux is still very young in secondrow terms and is a hugely imposing man, and a good in the loose. Henderson is injury prone, Ryan is injury prone and approaching 34, I can definitely see Roux getting plenty more caps in the future.

4) Aki will definitely play for Ireland

5) Kleyn: Too early to tell.

6) Heenan is a another very good player who's injury prone. Excellent at u-20 level, again, if he can avoid injuries, I would personally say he will play for Ireland.

7) Diack, you're right, hasn't a hope.

8) Ludik, again, you're right, hasn't a hope. His renewal should never have been allowed, the whole point of the project player is to bring in guys who can do a job for the national team for at least a few years, Ludik will be 31 when he qualifies and is nowhere near international level, doesn't even get a sniff of the Ulster bench when they're at full strength (at least 3 guys ahead of him for the 23 jersey). Ulster retaining him was an abuse of the system IMO, as he will block the development of young Irish players without ever being an option for the national side himself.

9) Poolman: You're right, hasn't a hope. On another point, if a project player qualifies but clearly hasn't a hope and is blocking Irish players, should they be treated as an NIQ player in terms of contract renewals as decided by the national coach? Obviously unworkable in reality but in principle it makes sense and would weed out the likes of Poolman and Ludik who may as well be NIQ for the way they block young players.

10) McCartney: may be pretty old but will likely figure for Ireland as we have really bad depth at hooker after Cronin. Strauss is injury prone and doesn't look the same player after the heart issues...Herring, Heffernan, Tracy, Scannell et al aren't bad players but you wouldn't fancy them as much as McCartney for throwing in in the last 5 minutes of a tight 6 Nations or tackling Vunipola near the line when we're 4 points up, etc.

11) If Herbst: can avoid the injuries and show his best form he will almost definitely feature for Ireland, although probably at the expense of Ah You. Much more assured in the scrum than John Ryan or Bealham at tighthead.

12) JGP: was second choice at the Super Rugby winners behind an All Black and at 24 years old and in a position of weakness for Ireland, will definitely feature in the future.

13) Bleyendaal: Based on his form this season and his age, Bleyendaal looks good enough when he qualifies in January 2018, but he may find it difficult with Jackson, Carberry and Sexton on the frame, and potentially others. Likely to get a few caps though.

Based on this analysis, that's quite a number over the next few years. With the rules as they are, I guess we have every reason to exploit them as other countries do. I agree that the 'invasion' has been overstated but it still makes me uneasy.

As another potential solution, could the IRB make a rule of no more than 3 in any matchday squad, and no more than 4 in an extended RWC squad? Would probably be blocked on legal human rights grounds, but is worth looking at to stop France from taking the piss with all the Islanders in the future.
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Re: Special Project Players

Postby Ruckedtobits » October 27th, 2016, 12:09 am

Good post and informative thread
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Re: Special Project Players

Postby simonokeeffe » October 27th, 2016, 8:06 am

The good thing about 5 years is it conforms to permanent residency/citizenship in a lot of places

@FWS no offence taken. 5 in a panel and for me youre into esoteric feely concepts like spirit and identity but also resonance with fans

@Neilog know some of the guys are young Im writing off but really cant see them winning many IF they stay

JGP (3rd choice at Canes, 2nd was injured) v Murray, Marmion, Kerins, McGrath, Blade

Herbst injury prone v Furlong, Ryan, Moore, Bealham

Herbst & Ah You competing for same position just like all the hookers

FFR ruled the overseas based academies dont count as French so thatll help
Aussies using league converts as much as anything but theyve their own crisis of identity/waning sport/brand issues
When he spreads his legs like that youd need dynamite or the Highland Light Infantry to shift him.
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Re: Special Project Players

Postby simonokeeffe » October 27th, 2016, 8:14 am

The Tier 2 Rugby account/blog did a good piece on this so will post it or the link here if I dig it up later

The big SH unions are all for allowing a switch back for players to qualification for country of birth/nationality qualified for tier2 players who played for tier 1 countries or were tied to, after a period, but us Celts are blocking it

Vast majority of island born players who play for NZ moved as kids/with families. Very few all blacks have qualified on residency as adults. All but 2 or 3 of last Samoa u20 side came through NZ schools so they benefit hugely plus the free (quality) education goes a long way for them
When he spreads his legs like that youd need dynamite or the Highland Light Infantry to shift him.
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Re: Special Project Players

Postby neiliog93 » October 27th, 2016, 4:05 pm

simonokeeffe wrote:The Tier 2 Rugby account/blog did a good piece on this so will post it or the link here if I dig it up later

The big SH unions are all for allowing a switch back for players to qualification for country of birth/nationality qualified for tier2 players who played for tier 1 countries or were tied to, after a period, but us Celts are blocking it

Vast majority of island born players who play for NZ moved as kids/with families. Very few all blacks have qualified on residency as adults. All but 2 or 3 of last Samoa u20 side came through NZ schools so they benefit hugely plus the free (quality) education goes a long way for them


Yeah that's fair enough although a lot of the guys 'who came with their families' from the islands are teenagers who get private school scholarships in NZ with approval from NZ Rugby in order for them to qualify to play for New Zealand in the future. E.g Sivivatu. Anyone who grew up in NZ and plays for Samoa is ultimately an NZ reject, but anyone poached by NZ from the islands to play for NZ is a world class player who Samoa would love to have. NZ get the first rate guys while Samoa, Tonga and Fiji get the second-rate guys, if that makes sense.
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Re: Special Project Players

Postby Dave Cahill » October 27th, 2016, 5:07 pm

I went through NZ squads for the RWCs this millenium for players born outside New Zealand (and Austrailia), apart from Sivivatu there were...

Mils Muiliana moved to NZ at 3, Joe Rokocoko at the age of 5, Isaia Toeava unknown, Jerry Collins ("a toddler" according to allblacks.com), Chris Masoe (his teens according to allblacks.com), SIone Lauaki unk, Rodney So'oialo ("like Collins"..."came to NZ at an early age" according to allblacks.com), Jerome Kaino moved at 4, Pauliasi Manu unk, Malakai Fekitoa 16/17, Waisake Naholo unk.


Now, having said that, there are lots of players in every country who have their full international careers without ever making a world cup. Charles Piutau played for both Tonga and NZ (the land of his birth) at age grade level before becoming an all black.
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Re: Special Project Players

Postby leinsterforever » October 27th, 2016, 5:12 pm

Due to the complex nature of the situation with the Pacific Islands, I think I'd be in favour of players being allowed to represent more than one country - if there was a two or three year fallow period between playing for the different countries. It seems unjust the Nacewa was barred for all his career from representing NZ
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Re: Special Project Players

Postby Peg Leg » October 27th, 2016, 5:25 pm

leinsterforever wrote:Due to the complex nature of the situation with the Pacific Islands, I think I'd be in favour of players being allowed to represent more than one country - if there was a two or three year fallow period between playing for the different countries. It seems unjust the Nacewa was barred for all his career from representing NZ

Think that would further dilute the jersey and the commitment. They would be no different to the Pienaar and Nacewa types in our provinces, hires talent working for the highest bidder.
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Re: Special Project Players

Postby neiliog93 » October 27th, 2016, 5:29 pm

leinsterforever wrote:Due to the complex nature of the situation with the Pacific Islands, I think I'd be in favour of players being allowed to represent more than one country - if there was a two or three year fallow period between playing for the different countries. It seems unjust the Nacewa was barred for all his career from representing NZ


That might work so long as the maximum number of caps allowed before switching was relatively low (say, 5), otherwise guys with caps for the Pacific Island nations, after 5 years playing Super Rugby or whatever, could switch to the ABs and Australia.
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Re: Special Project Players

Postby neiliog93 » October 27th, 2016, 5:35 pm

Dave Cahill wrote:I went through NZ squads for the RWCs this millenium for players born outside New Zealand (and Austrailia), apart from Sivivatu there were...

Mils Muiliana moved to NZ at 3, Joe Rokocoko at the age of 5, Isaia Toeava unknown, Jerry Collins ("a toddler" according to allblacks.com), Chris Masoe (his teens according to allblacks.com), SIone Lauaki unk, Rodney So'oialo ("like Collins"..."came to NZ at an early age" according to allblacks.com), Jerome Kaino moved at 4, Pauliasi Manu unk, Malakai Fekitoa 16/17, Waisake Naholo unk.


Now, having said that, there are lots of players in every country who have their full international careers without ever making a world cup. Charles Piutau played for both Tonga and NZ (the land of his birth) at age grade level before becoming an all black.


Fekitoa, Naholo, Lauaki etc are perfect examples of what I described above. 'Arriving at a young age' or 'arriving as a teen' is often a euphemism for a private rugby school scholarship with the endorsement of the rugby authorities. It might be overplayed in some parts but even if it doesn't happen as often as some think, it's still wrong. I'm not condemning the individuals, it makes sense for them, but it shouldn't happen from a Pacific Island perspective.

World Rugby should try to get funding for a Pacific Island Super Rugby team, which might remedy the problem, at least in part. Also get the Ozzies and ABs to each commit to a test in one of the island nations every two years!
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Re: Special Project Players

Postby Peg Leg » October 27th, 2016, 5:36 pm

I know this suits the smaller nations with fewer teams but given the project rule is there to help build and supply a 23 man national squad, I think it should be changed to a 4 or 5 year naturalisation period with only 1 player allowed in each year for that country. I.e. when a player qualifies out of year 4 or 5 another could be taken in to year 1 of the process. This wouldn't slow down France or English foreign youth recruitment but they would have to choose very wisely who was going to be naturalised from that foreign player pool.
I think this would leave a lot of guys open to opting for their homeland having proven their worth in a foreign league and likely in a position to hold their place for a club. It would also reduce these spite caps given to prevent another national team from having him.
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Re: Special Project Players

Postby simonokeeffe » October 27th, 2016, 6:10 pm

When he spreads his legs like that youd need dynamite or the Highland Light Infantry to shift him.
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Re: Special Project Players

Postby neiliog93 » October 27th, 2016, 6:34 pm

simonokeeffe wrote:http://tier2rugby.blogspot.ie/2014/07/the-truth-how-wrong-old-all-blacks.html

Really worth a read


I don't disagree much with the article. It essentially says that young lads in the islands (understandably) really want the scholarships. Of course they would. But for me at least if you go at 15-18 yrs of age and then play for NZ it is tantamount to poaching.
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Re: Special Project Players

Postby fourthirtythree » October 27th, 2016, 10:51 pm

simonokeeffe wrote:http://tier2rugby.blogspot.ie/2014/07/the-truth-how-wrong-old-all-blacks.html

Really worth a read


I found its snide tone and constant cherry picking facts to fit an alrerady reached conclusion when it was written in the style of an investigation into the phenomenon really, really grating. It was like some passive aggressive person who won't shut up at a meeting.

I'm not fond of the project player thing, but then I'm not fond of lots of things. Like imperialism say. Or that article.
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Re: Special Project Players

Postby Fan with smartphone » October 27th, 2016, 10:59 pm

simonokeeffe wrote:http://tier2rugby.blogspot.ie/2014/07/the-truth-how-wrong-old-all-blacks.html

Really worth a read


Very interesting. It's complicated, innit.
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