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Will Clark - Scottish rugby should show more faith in youth than looking overseas

By Will Clark

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Well done to former Highland Rugby Club player Jamie Dobie who won his first international cap for Scotland against Tonga last Saturday.

Inverness rugby player Jamie Dobie made his senior Scotland debut in their first 2021 Autumn international against Tonga. Ross Parker - SNS Group
Inverness rugby player Jamie Dobie made his senior Scotland debut in their first 2021 Autumn international against Tonga. Ross Parker - SNS Group

The 20-year-old Glasgow Warriors scrum half came on as a replacement during the second half in the 60–14 demolition at Murrayfield last weekend.

After impressing for Glasgow in the United Rugby Championship and being involved in Scotland training camps previously, the Inverness man finally got the chance to put on the blue jersey and show what he could do for his country.

It is great to see a player come through the youth ranks and represent Scotland in international competition.

Especially in an era when a lot of significance is placed by Scottish Rugby on looking to other countries and finding talent who could qualify to play for Scotland through residency rules.

In rugby, there are four ways to represent a country. They were born in the country, they have a parent or grandparent who was born in the country, they have completed 10 years of cumulative residence in the country before playing or they have lived in the country for five years to qualify on residency immediately before playing.

The residency rule was only increased from three years to five years in December last year.

Scotland have made good use of the residency rule in recent years, particularly bringing in South African players such as Oli Kebble and Pierre Schoeman as well as Australian Sam Johnston.

There are other examples such as Australian Stone Tuipolotu whose grandmother comes from Greenock and South African Kyle Steyn whose mother is Scottish.

In an Daily Mail article last month, former Scottish international Craig Chalmers argued the national team was losing its identity due to the emphasis Scottish Rugby was putting on finding overseas talent.

He said it is a bad look for the national team and is guilty of showing a lack of faith in young Scottish players coming through the youth systems.

Scotland are not alone though in looking at overseas talent to boost their national side, almost every nation does it. Even New Zealand do it. At the 2019 World Cup, 17 out of the 20 national teams taking part had at least one player who was born outside that country. Only Argentina, Namibia and Uruguay fielded players who were all born in their own country.

Scotland had the fourth highest amount of foreign players in their squad with 14 qualifying through either residency, parent or grandparent. Only Japan (16) Samoa (17) and Tonga (19) had more. Even Australia, two time world champions had 12 foreign players qualified through the residency rule from countries such as New Zealand, South Africa, Fiji and Tonga.

At the end of the day, no rules have been broken, rugby is a professional sport and if athletes want to make the choice to play for a country outside their own to benefit their own career that is their right and good luck to them.

But has Scotland taken it too far and classed their youth set up as Plan B?

Chalmers has a valid point that it does not send out a good message to young Scottish players wanting to represent their country.

But the likes of Jamie Dobie playing at Murrayfield on Saturday at least shows the door is open to talented rugby players born and bred in Scotland.

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