03 February 2008

A Double Turncoat?

I found it deeply unsettling watching Lesley Vainikolo storming about in an England shirt yesterday, though his efforts hardly saved his adopted country's blushes. I just kept wondering what he was doing there. In what sense is he English?

After all, he's Tongan by birth, but a New Zealander by parentage, and has played Rugby League twelve times at international level for New Zealand. It seems he's allowed to play for England through the 'residency rule', but I'm at a loss to figure out the thinking behind this qualification. Granted, he's been playing Rugby League in England since 2002, but it's not as if he's been thinking of himself as English for the last six years -- it seems that he only failed to play for New Zealand in the 2005 and 2006 Tri-Nations tournaments because of his knee troubles! Or at least, that was the official line; was he secretly eating marmite and drinking warm beer while planning to abandon both New Zealand and Rugby League?

I dunno, part of me is just bothered to see England, the country with the world's largest Rugby Union player base, fielding people who are at best marginally English. I mean, the current system favours countries with big player pools anyway. Surely the likes of England don't need to hammer home their advantage?

It's just not cricket.

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