Nucifora insists Ireland are simply playing by the threeyear residency rule

first_img By Murray Kinsella Share11 Tweet Email Friday 28 Oct 2016, 7:45 AM Oct 28th 2016, 7:45 AM Add us: the42.ie 22,699 Views Short URL 46 Comments Tweet thisShare on FacebookEmail this article THE DEBATE AROUND the three-year residency rule in rugby well and truly burst back into life this week based on the searingly honest comments from Luke Fitzgerald.Whether or not you agree with what the former Leinster and Ireland back had to say, his genuine answer to a question that has bothered so many in the game must be applauded.There are many, many more people within the sport – particularly players – who share Fitzgerald’s opinions, but their hands are tied and lips sealed in terms of giving an honest opinion on the record. Bundee Aki qualifies for Ireland next year. Source: James Crombie/INPHOThe IRFU’s stance on the matter, underlined by performance director David Nucifora again yesterday, is simple.“They’re the rules, so that’s what is set out for us,” said the Australian at the Aviva Stadium. “So like every other country, we all operate from the same set of rules. Whilst they’re there, we’re happy to abide by them, again, like every other country does.”Nucifora was quick to stress that it is the provinces who identify foreign players to bring to Ireland with contract offers, therefore rejecting the notion that the IRFU is actively scoring the globe for possible project players to qualify for Ireland.“I don’t think every player comes up here with that view [to play for Ireland]; players come up here to play rugby for a living. There are a lot of players who come up here who qualify, who aren’t good enough to play for Ireland.“There are players who come up here and fill the required time frame, and over that three years and beyond they do prove that they’re good enough.”Nucifora also insisted that “it doesn’t really worry me” if the recently-formed working group reviewing the residency rule on World Rugby’s behalf finds that a change is required.While players like Bundee Aki are likely to continue to filter into the Ireland team after three years of living here, Nucifora says the IRFU is spending more time thinking about its development pathway for young players on this island.“Our focus is on producing Irish players, hence that’s why our strong investment has been in the pathways to keep giving those young players the opportunity.“When foreign players come up here, we look very closely – we just don’t let anyone come in. We look at how it effects the pathway, how it effects the succession planning, and a case in point is probably young Joey Carbery. Carbery has thrived with opportunity at Leinster. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland“Leinster would have loved to have had a foreign replacement when Ian Madigan left but we felt that they had the depth there and needed to give these boys an opportunity. And from that, look at what we’ve got now. We’ve got a player of genuine ability who has been given an opportunity, and now he’s in the national squad.”Balance is the key for Nucifora, who pointed out that provincial fans get excitement from the signing of players from abroad.“The foreign players will always be welcome. They fill a place in Irish rugby, as they do in every other country.”The popularity of some foreign imports was made clear by the anger in Ulster at the IRFU’s decision to prevent them from re-contracting South African scrum-half Ruan Pienaar beyond next summer.The decision continues to cause grievance in the northern province, particularly with many sharing the view that Ulster don’t have the necessary depth to cover his loss at scrum-half.“I think it was a fairly clear-cut situation, to be honest,” said Nucifora. “Ruan has been a great servant for Ulster Rugby over seven years. Did we think it would be wise for him to stay nine years? No. I mean, that doesn’t fit in with any of our plans.“So his role within Ulster Rugby, he’s done a great job, but it’s time to move on and as I’ve just referred to with Joey Carbery coming through, when someone moves on people think, ‘Gosh, we’ll never replace him, we’ll never find someone to fill that spot’.“But there’s always someone who comes through once that opportunity presents itself. It may be uncomfortable for a short period of time, but I’m sure that someone will put their hand up now that an opportunity presents itself.”As for the re-contracting of homegrown players, Nucifora is hopeful that the IRFU and the provinces will be able to make a number of announcements in the coming weeks. Toner is out of contract at the end of the season. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHOThere aren’t too many high-profile Ireland internationals coming towards the end of contracts this season, but the likes of Devin Toner, Donnacha Ryan, Darren Sweetnam, Dave Kilcoyne and others are.“The good thing is we don’t lose too many players,” said Nucifora yesterday. “For the number of players who choose to go, our retention rate is pretty good.“There are a number of players off contract. We are in negotiations with a number of them and things are travelling on pretty well. I’d like to think we’ll start to be able to announce a few players over the next few weeks that have re-signed.“It is a busy period at the moment for the provinces and ourselves in that area. There is some good news coming, not too far off.”Nucifora also underlined his pleasure at Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt ignoring the high levels of interest from elsewhere to finally sign a new contract with the IRFU through to the 2019 World Cup, saying that the Kiwi “actually had a lot longer to make a decision if he wanted to.”With Schmidt and assistant coach Andy Farrell now locked in until the 2019 tournament, Nucifora and the IRFU will look to extend the contracts of their fellow Ireland coaches.The42 is on Snapchat! Tap the button below on your phone to add! 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