In rugby, as in many other sports, players for national teams may have a fairly tenuous link to their adopted country. Readers of my age will remember the Zola Budd debacle, when the barefoot South African teenager was fast tracked to a British passport so she could compete for Great Britain in the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. As with so many schemes masterminded by The Daily Mail (yes, causing trouble even in those days) it was a disaster and after tripping and taking out America's Darling, Mary Decker, she scuttled off back to South Africa which was, really, her home. Her British passport has probably only been useful for jumping the immigration queues at Gatwick. So here are my nominations for the players who really sound like they should be playing for another team.
1. Making his second appearance in my RWC awards is Toby Faletau who plays for ....... Wales
2. Then just to confuse you, Simon Danielli
3.... and Nick de Luca
4. While Luke McClean who sounds like he should play for Scotland......
..... actually plays for Italy (and was born in Australia)
5. Adam Byrnes sounds like he should play for Ireland but.....
..... he plays for Russia. (Although he made his name playing in Ireland and Australia, he declared for Russia on the grounds that his maternal grandmother is Russian)
6. Does Paul Williams play for Wales? No....
..... he plays for Samoa. (His father is an ex-All Black and his brother plays for Clermont in France but after a successful career in New Zealand he declared himself for Samoa internationally)
7. Shaun Webb
8. James Arlidge
9. And Luke Thompson
.... sound like they should play for England but they actually play for ...... Japan! As do Michael Veitch, Bryce Robins and Ryan Nicholas. Both Luke Thompson and Shaun Webb got Japanese citizenship on residency grounds a mere month before the start of the World Cup.. and there's me thinking that their great grannies were Japanese!
10. And finally, at Number 10, everybody's favourite Man Overboard, Manu Tuilagi, who could play for Samoa ....
...... but, as most of us know, Manu plays for England. His is probably one of the most tenuous links to the nationality of the country he plays for as he was, until last year, an illegal immigrant. But hey, if you're an illegal with a talent, who cares? Not the UK government it would appear.
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