Paris, France, Dec 20 – France will no longer select non-French players for its national team, French federation president Bernard Laporte said on Tuesday.
The news came following a meeting between the French Rugby Federation (FFR) and World Rugby president Bill Beaumont in Paris.
“I told Bill that we’ve taken the political decision to stop playing foreign players in the national team,” said Laporte, who was only elected FFR president on December 3.
The issue of foreign-qualified players is contentious particularly for the Pacific Islands — Fiji, Samoa and Tonga — who often lose talented players that opt to represent some of the bigger, richer nations.
Current France players including New Zealand-born prop Uini Atonio, South African-born full-back Scott Spedding and Fijian wings Noa Nakaitaci and Virimi Vakatawa will remain eligible to represent France but other foreign-born players will not be allowed to follow suit.
“Obviously it’s not retroactive. Those playing can continue playing but it’s a strong signal for French acadamies and our youngsters that we’ll play a maximum number of Frenchmen.”
According to current World Rugby rules, a player can represent another country if he has lived there for three consecutive years and has not yet played for anyone else.
World Rugby is looking at extending that criteria to five years.
During the meeting Laporte reiterated France’s commitment to bidding against Ireland and South Africa to host the 2023 World Cup. Japan will organise the 2019 event.