Under 20s and player eligibility

In recent years plenty of people have been mystified by the issues surrounding players’ eligibility to play for an international side after previously featuring at age grade level for another country.

For some nations featuring in particular age grade games or tournaments matches has ‘captured’ a player, meaning he could not then play for another national side. For other sides this has no impact on an individual’s eligibility for playing international rugby.

Allow On Top Of The Moon to be your guide for a (hopefully) handy summary of the impact of age grade rugby on eligibility to play international rugby.

Key dates

2000 – World Rugby revises eligibility restricting players to only play for one country.

The one Union only rule was introduced as part of the provisions of Regulation 8 from 1st January 2000. Prior to this players who were eligible to play for more than one country (through birth; parent / grandparent; or residence) could play for a second country after serving a 36 month stand down from the first nation they had been capped for

2003 – first nominations of Next Senior National Representative Teams ‘NSNRT’.

Regulation 8 provides not only that playing for the senior fifteen-a-side National Representative Team (ie the top level, full cap sides for each country) means a player is not eligible to feature for another nation. It also includes the NSNRT and the senior National Representative Sevens Team as sides which lock a player in to a particular country.

Initially NSNRT were to be ‘A’ sides but from 2003 onwards Unions could designate an age grade side for this role.

2004 – Wales are the first country to nominate an age grade side as their NSNRT

The Welsh Rugby Union were the first to opt to have an age grade side as their NSNRT. Due to the wording of regulation 8 though simply playing for Wales U21s was not enough to have been ‘deemed to have played for the next senior fifteen-a-side National Representative Team of a Union’.

The game would have to be against the senior fifteen-a-side National Representative Team or the next senior fifteen-a-side National Representative Team of another Union. Once the player was considered to have played for the NSNRT they were no longer eligible to play for another country.

2007 – France nominate their U21 side – meaning their next meeting with Wales becomes the first time a ‘capture’ match is played at age grade level.

The French designation of their U21s meant that in the U21 Six Nations there would be at least one match (Wales against France) that met the criteria of Regulation 8.3 (a) with players featuring for a NSNRT against another NSNRT and therefore being deemed to have played for those sides and from that point being ineligible to play for another Union.

1 July 2014 – ‘capture’ matches extended to include all games played by nominated NSNRT’s in U20 Six Nations; WR U20 Championship; and WR U20 Trophy.

An additional clause was added to Regulation 8:

The Player is part of the team which participates in an International
Match as part of the World Rugby Junior World Championships,
World Rugby Junior World Rugby Trophy or the Six Nations U20
Championship.

From this point on, for matches in these tournaments, the status of the opposition was no longer an issue. All that mattered was if a team was nominated as a NSNRT – in which case players who featured for that side were captured. If their opposition were not a nominated NSNRT they would play in the very same match but would not be tied to their country.

1 January 2018 – age grade sides can no longer be nominated as NSNRT.

World Rugby’s latest round of changes to player eligibility included a significant alteration for age grade sides and meant that the 2017 U20 tournaments were the last that captured players for a Union. Going forward teams would need to pitch a nominated ‘A’ side against another nominated ‘A’ side to create capture matches.

Tier 1 and Tier 2 Unions who nominated their age grade side as their Next Senior National Representative Team

2004Wales U21
2005Wales U21
2006Wales U21
2007Wales U21, France U21
2008Wales U20, France U20
2009Wales U20
2010Wales U20
2011Wales U20, France U20
2012Wales U20, France U20, South Africa U20
2013Wales U20, France U20, South Africa U20
2014Wales U20, France U20, South Africa U20, Italy U20
2015Wales U20, France U20, South Africa U20, Italy U20
2016Wales U20, France U20, South Africa U20, Italy U20
2017France U20, South Africa U20, Italy U20, Georgia U20

 

Capture matches played by Tier 1 and 2 nations

Wales – 31 capture matches

  • 2004
    nominated side but didn’t play any capture matches (U21s)
  • 2005
    nominated side but didn’t play any capture matches (U21s)
  • 2006
    nominated side but didn’t play any capture matches (U21s)
  • 2007
    France (U21 6N) see note 1
  • 2008
    France (U20 6N);
    France (WR U20 Champs)
  • 2009
    nominated side but didn’t play any capture matches (U20s)
  • 2010
    nominated side but didn’t play any capture matches (U20s)
  • 2011
    France (U20 6N)
  • 2012
    France (U20 6N)
  • 2013
    France (U20 6N);
    South Africa (WR U20 Champs)
  • 2014
    France (U20 6N);
    Italy (U20 6N);
    France (WR U20 Champs – group);
    France (WR U20 Champs – playoffs)
  • 2015
    All 5 games in U20 6N;
    All 5 games in WR U20 Champs
  • 2016
    All 5 games in U20 6N;
    All 5 games in WR U20 Champs

France – 41 capture matches

  • 2007
    Wales (U21 6N)
  • 2008
    Wales (U20 6N);
    Wales (WR U20 Champs)
  • 2011
    Wales (U20 6N)
  • 2012
    Wales (U20 6N)
  • 2013
    Wales (U20 6N);
    South Africa (WR U20 Champs)
  • 2014
    Wales (U20 6N);
    Italy (U20 6N);
    Wales (WR U20 Champs – group);
    Wales (WR U20 Champs – playoffs)
  • 2015
    All 5 games in U20 6N;
    All 5 games in WR U20 Champs
  • 2016
    All 5 games in U20 6N;
    All 5 games in WR U20 Champs
  • 2017
    All 5 games in U20 6N;
    All 5 games in WR U20 Champs

South Africa – 17 capture matches

  • 2012
    nominated side but didn’t play any capture matches (U20s)
  • 2013
    France (WR U20 Champs);
    Wales (WR U20 Champs)
  • 2014
    nominated side but didn’t play any capture matches (U20s)
  • 2015
    All 5 games in WR U20 Champs
  • 2016
    All 5 games in WR U20 Champs
  • 2017
    All 5 games in WR U20 Champs

Italy – 32 capture matches

  • 2014
    France (U20 6N);
    Wales (U20 6N)
  • 2015
    All 5 games in U20 6N;
    All 5 games in WR U20 Champs
  • 2016
    All 5 games in U20 6N;
    All 5 games in WR U20 Champs
  • 2017
    All 5 games in U20 6N;
    All 5 games in WR U20 Champs

Georgia – 5 capture matches

  • 2017
    All 5 games in WR U20 Champs

Note 1
Even here there are some factors which make the status of this match a little bit uncertain. The nominated sides were Wales U21s and France U21s for that season but according to the WRU website this was a match played by a Welsh U20s side – they had transitioned ahead of the new U20 Champs which started in 2008. France had not yet changed so remained an U21 side.

Given that the match itself was played in the U21s Six Nations and Wales had simply chosen to further restrict their selection to prepare for the future changes this match will almost certainly have been a game between two nominated NSNRTs from World Rugby’s point of view. But it does illustrate the complexities of the old system and leave a little bit of doubt in the mind!


References:

World Rugby Handbook Regulation 8

World Rugby Handbook Regulation 8 Explanatory Guidelines

Next Senior National Representative Teams 2003-2018

 

 

 

 

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