Rise in international eligibility period from three to five years welcomed by Scots

WP Nel in action for Scotland
South Africa-born WP Nel has been capped 15 times by Scotland

An extension of the residency qualification period for international players from three to five years has been welcomed by Scotland's head coach.

South Africa-born forwards Josh Struass and WP Nel both qualified for Scotland under the present three-year rule.

The change means any similar "project players" brought to Scotland after 2020 will have to wait longer to qualify.

But Gregor Townsend told BBC Scotland: "We applaud the decision. It's a good thing for rugby."

World Rugby hopes that raising the residency qualification period from 36 to 60 months will give some protection to the smaller nations - particularly the Pacific Island teams - by discouraging their stars from pledging allegiance to other countries.

England have also benefitted recently, with Fiji-born Nathan Hughes and Semesa Rokoduguni having made their debuts after three years in the country, while Auckland-born Denny Solomona will become eligible in August.

However, France have previously declared they will only select players who hold a French passport in the hope it will reverse the national team's reliance on overseas-born players.

Josh Strauss in action for Scotland
Josh Strauss has played 11 times for Scotland after qualifying in 2015

"It gives you clarity," said Townsend of the World Rugby vote.

"Every nation that's been operating under the rules of three years now has clarity that it will be changed to five.

"All the nations bar one or two have benefited from the rules.

"Now that the rules have changed, all the nations will have to work within them."

World Rugby says the change will ensure that players have a "genuine, close, credible and established link with the nation of representation".

Vice-chairman Agustin Pichot said: "This is an historic moment for the sport.

"National team representation is the reward for devoting your career, your rugby life, to your nation and these amendments will ensure that the international arena is full of players devoted to their nation, who got there on merit."

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