World Rugby boss Agustin Pichot sparks outrage by sharing 'xenophobic' squads list

2018-11-22 03:02:47

World Rugby vice-chairman Agustin Pichot has sparked outrage among the home nations by sharing a list of the top international teams and adding what percentage of their squads include players "not born in their countries".

Pichot was voted rugby's most influential person by the respected Rugby World magazine in August but his tweet posted on Wednesday, which features statistics for the top 11 rugby-playing nations, has led to calls for the former Argentina halfback to resign for "fanning the flames of xenophobia".

The 44-year-old's post lists Scotland (46.3 per cent) on top for having the most "foreign-born players" in their squad for the November tests, while South Africa and Argentina are bottom (both with 0 per cent).

Scotland host Argentina in their final test of the year in Edinburgh on Saturday (Sunday NZ time) and some of the anger aimed at Pichot suggested his tweet was a subtle dig at the Scottish team.

Interestingly, New Zealand is listed second from bottom with 12.5 per cent, while Japan (37.1), Italy (29.7), Australia (29.4), England (27.7), Ireland (26.1), Wales (24.3), France (12.9) are ranked from second to eighth.

According to Pichot's list, England, Ireland and Wales all have approximately double the number of New Zealand's players born overseas in their respective squads.

Northern rugby scribes have traditionally criticised the All Blacks for pinching talent from the Pacific Islands but Stuff revealed last year that England had actually been the home of poaching in rugby since 2005.

Only four of the initial 32-man All Blacks squad named for their northern tour were born overseas: Nepo Laulala (Apia, Samoa), Ofa Tu'ungafasi (Nukuʻalofa, Tonga), Vaea Fifita (Vavaʻu, Tonga) and Waisake Naholo (Sigatoka, Fiji).

As for Pichot, his offending tweet caused quite the stir and the post had drawn close to 3000 reactions by Thursday morning.

Twitter users accused Pichot of "total xenophobia" and said he was talking nonsense, pointing out that members of Wales' squad were factored into their percentage of "foreign-born players" when born in neighbouring England.

Wales winger George North was born in King's Lynn in England to an English father and a Welsh mother before moving to Wales when he was two.

WalesOnline said North, Jonathan Davies, Dan Lydiate, Ross Moriarty and Jake Ball were all key players in the Welsh squad who were born in England, while another Wales duo, Kiwis Gareth Anscombe and Hadleigh Parkes, were born in New Zealand.

One Twitter user said: "When talking about multi-cultural societies, we generally don't consider people who moved to England as kids as foreign. That's how xenophobia and racism spreads."

Another added: "The list is absolute nonsense and you should be ashamed of yourself for propagating it. George North isn't really Welsh because he only moved there aged two despite having a Welsh mother. Jamie Heaslip shouldn't be considered Irish because his dad was on duty with the UN peacekeepers?"

Former Ireland No 8 Heaslip was born in Tiberias, Israel, while his father was working there for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

It's not the first time Pichot has spoken out about the subject of players opting to represent a nation they were not born in.

The Argentinian said rugby was "losing something" when former Hurricanes captain Brad Shields was first pictured in an England shirt in a photo posted by veteran New Zealand sports broadcaster Keith Quinn, who asked: "Is this a sad picture? I think so – what about you?"

Pichot replied to Quinn: "Algo se esta perdiendo ('something's missing' in English). We are losing something... the game is losing something..."

When former England and British and Irish Lions first-five Stuart Barnes suggested Shields' situation was similar to the All Blacks selecting Pacific Islands players, Pichot said: "Two things wrong don't make 1 right. Still think (regulations can say another thing) it depends in each case and how many years you have lived and love the country and jersey you are representing. [How] can we measure that? By parents? Grand parents? Years? Very difficult. I have my personal opinion."

Masterton-born Shields qualifies for England via both his parents who moved to New Zealand in their childhood and he made his international debut against South Africa in June.

Shields faced several former Kiwi team-mates when playing for England in the Twickenham test the All Blacks won 16-15 in London earlier this month.

Pichot, who made 71 appearances for Argentina from 1995-2008, was instrumental in having World Rugby extend the qualification period for players to switch countries from three to five years living in their new country.

It has been something of a crusade for Pichot who voiced his concerns over the subject when he was elevated to the vice-chairman role of the sport's governing body in 2016.

"When you have players who haven't lived in the country that they represent, it's not great," Pichot said at the time.

"I think it is very important to keep the identity of our national teams. As a cultural thing, as an inspiration to new kids, I think having on your team players who have not lived [for long] in the country they are [representing] I think it's not right.

"When I see the national anthem and people not singing it, it confuses me a little bit."


Initial 32-man All Blacks squad for northern tour (where they were born - overseas in bold)

Hookers: Dane Coles (Paraparaumu), Nathan Harris (Tauranga), Codie Taylor (Levin).

Props: Owen Franks (Moteuka), Nepo Laulala (Apia, Samoa), Joe Moody (Christchurch), Karl Tu'inukuafe (Auckland), Ofa Tu'ungafasi (Nukuʻalofa, Tonga).

​Locks: Scott Barrett (New Plymouth), Brodie Retallick (Rangiora), Patrick Tuipulotu (Christchurch), Sam Whitelock (Palmerston North).

​Loose forwards: Vaea Fifita (Vavaʻu, Tonga), Dalton Papalii (Auckland), Kieran Read (Papakura), Ardie Savea (Wellington), Liam Squire (Palmerston North), Matt Todd (Christchurch).

​Halfbacks: TJ Perenara (Porirua), Aaron Smith (Palmerston North), Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (Rotorua).

First five-eighths: Beauden Barrett (New Plymouth), Damian McKenzie (Invercargill), Richie Mo'unga (Christchurch).

​Midfielders: Ryan Crotty (Nelson), Jack Goodhue (Whangarei), Anton Lienert-Brown (Christchurch), Sonny Bill Williams (Auckland).

Outside backs: Jordie Barrett (New Plymouth), Rieko Ioane (Auckland), Waisake Naholo (Sigatoka, Fiji), Ben Smith​ (Dunedin).

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