1. bookVolume 17 (2021): Issue 3 (September 2021)
Journal Details
First Published
16 Apr 2015
Publication timeframe
2 times per year
access type Open Access

National Representation without Citizenship: the Special Case of Rugby

Published Online: 20 Oct 2021
Volume & Issue: Volume 17 (2021) - Issue 3 (September 2021)
Page range: 501 - 523
Journal Details
First Published
16 Apr 2015
Publication timeframe
2 times per year

This article is a case study of one of the few sports, rugby, that does not link national representation exclusively to citizenship. It discusses who may represent a country in major events and under which conditions. It analyses the consequences of the rules on different stakeholders; and discusses why the residency rule in particular is subject to much controversy. The author has conducted case studies of the 2019 rugby union and 2017 rugby league men’s World Cups. Academic literature, international news-papers, and rugby-specific websites were reviewed. Other than secondary sources, the researcher also collected primary data through interviews. The interviewees included representatives of Rugby League International Federation and World Rugby. This research reveals that national representation without citizenship is widespread in both codes of rugby. It has also shown that the effects of the eligibility criteria go beyond simplistic rich/poor and center/periphery models. This article argues that the rational for the eligibility criteria is the limited global spread of rugby league and rugby union. Without those lenient rules it would be difficult to organize international competitions.


Americas Rugby News (2019): ‘Foreign-born Players at RWC 2019’, (7 September 2020): avail-ableat:http://www.americasrugbynews.com/2019/09/09/foreign-born-raised-players-at--rwc-2019/. Search in Google Scholar

Americas Rugby News (2015): ‘Foreign-born Players at RWC 2015’, (9 February 2019): available at: http://www.americasrugbynews.com/2015/09/13/foreign-born-players-rwc-2015/. Search in Google Scholar

Bale, John, and Maguire, Joseph. (Eds.). (2013): The global sports arena: Athletic talent migration in an interdependent world. Routledge.10.4324/9781315035871 Search in Google Scholar

Bengtsson, Bo. (2012): “Path Dependency.” In Smith, S. J. (2012). International encyclopedia of housing and home. Elsevier, (7): 161–166. Search in Google Scholar

Bohland, J. D. (2017): Who Counts as a Real American? Dual Citizenship, Hybridity, and the US Men’s National Team in Football and the Boundaries of History, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, p. 179–202. Search in Google Scholar

Brooke, C. (2018): Some are Calling for Augustin Pichot to Resign Over Controversial Tweet. Rugbypass, (9 February): available at: https://www.rugbypass.com/news/some-are-calling--for-augustin-pichot-to-resign-over-controversial-tweet. Search in Google Scholar

Bryman, Alan. (2012): Social Research Methods: OUP Oxford. Search in Google Scholar

Chiba, Naobi, and Jackson, Steve J. (2006): Rugby player migration from New Zealand to Japan. Football Studies 9(2): 67–78. Search in Google Scholar

Collins, Tony. (2009): A social history of English rugby union. Routledge.10.4324/9780203885444 Search in Google Scholar

Collins, Tony. (2013): Rugby’s great split: Class, culture and the origins of rugby league football. Routledge. Search in Google Scholar

Collins, Tony. (2017): ‘How Rugby League’s Relaxed Rules for Diaspora Players Gave the Sport a New Lease of Life’, Conversation (9 February, 2019): available at: https://theconversation.com/how-rugby-leagues-relaxed-rules-for-diaspora-players-gave-the-sport-a-new-lease-of--life-88104. Search in Google Scholar

Cronin, Mike, and Mayall, David, ed. (2005): Sporting Nationalisms: Identity, ethnicity, immigration and assimilation. Routledge.10.4324/9780203013243 Search in Google Scholar

Dolan, Paddy, and Connolly, John (2016): Sport, Unity and Conflict: An enduring social dynamic. European Journal for Sport and Society 13(3): 189–196. 179–202. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/16138171.2016.1229836.10.1080/16138171.2016.1229836 Search in Google Scholar

Exner, Jan (2019): Sporting Nationality in the Context of European Union Law: Seeking a Balance between Sporting Bodies’ Interests and Athletes’ Rights. Springer.10.1007/978-3-030-10807-6 Search in Google Scholar

Gorman, Joe (2017): ‘Lebanon’s World Cup is About More Than Simply Rugby League’, The Guardian (9 February, 2019): Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/oct/20/lebanons-world-cup-is-about-more-than-simply-rugby-league. Search in Google Scholar

Grainger, Andrew (2006): From immigrant to overstayer: Samoan identity, rugby, and cultural politics of race and nation in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Journal of Sport and Social Issues 30(1): 45–61. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/0193723505284277.10.1177/0193723505284277 Search in Google Scholar

Grainger, Andrew, Rick, Oliver, J., & Andrews, David, L (2014): Bound to the nation: Pacific Islands rugby and the IRB’s new ‘one-country-for-life’ eligibility rules. Sport in Society 17(7): 977–991. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/17430437.2013.806035.10.1080/17430437.2013.806035 Search in Google Scholar

Guinness, Daniel, and Besnier, Niko (2016): Nation, Nationalism, and Sport: Fijian Rugby in the Local-Global Nexus. Anthropological Quarterly, 1109–1141. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1353/anq.2016.0070.10.1353/anq.2016.0070 Search in Google Scholar

Harris, John (2010): Rugby union and globalization: An odd-shaped world. Springer.10.1057/9780230289710 Search in Google Scholar

Horne, John, Tomlinson, Alison, Whannel, Garry, and Woodward, Kath (2012): Understanding sport: A socio-cultural analysis. Routledge.10.4324/9780203807132 Search in Google Scholar

Horowitz, John, and McDaniel, Stephen. R. (2015): Investigating the global productivity effects of highly skilled labour migration: How immigrant athletes impact Olympic medal counts. International journal of sport policy and politics 7(1): 19–42. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/19406940.2014.885910.10.1080/19406940.2014.885910 Search in Google Scholar

Horton, Peter (2012): Pacific Islanders in global rugby: The changing currents of sports migration. The International Journal of the History of Sport 29(17): 2388–2404.10.1080/09523367.2012.746834 Search in Google Scholar

International Cricket Council (2018): ‘Player Eligibility Regulations. Effective as from October 2018.’ (21 September, 2020): Available at: https://www.icc-cricket.com/about/cricket/rules--and-regulations/playing-conditions. Search in Google Scholar

International Netball Federation (2016): ‘General Regulations. Effective November 1 2016.’ (21 September, 2020): Available at: https://netball.sport/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/INF--General-Regulations-November-2016.pdf. Search in Google Scholar

IOC (2018) ‘Olympic Charter.’ (9 February, 2019): Available at https://stillmed.olympic.org/media/Document%20Library/OlympicOrg/General/EN-Olympic-Charter.pdf#_ga=2.227061471.314482763.1542921705-566241420.1542921705. Search in Google Scholar

IRFB (1892): ‘Minutes of the IRFB board meeting from July 7, 1892.’ Search in Google Scholar

Jansen, Joost, and Engbersen, Godfried (2017): Have the Olympic Games become more migratory? A comparative historical perspective. Comparative migration studies 5(1): 11.10.1186/s40878-017-0054-2 Search in Google Scholar

Jansen, Joost, Oonk, Gisbert, and Engbersen, Godfried. (2018). Nationality swapping in the Olympic field: towards the marketization of citizenship? Citizenship Studies 22(5): 523–539. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/13621025.2018.1477921.10.1080/13621025.2018.1477921 Search in Google Scholar

Johnes, Martin (2000): Eighty minute patriots? National identity and sport in modern Wales. The International Journal of the History of Sport 17(4): 93–110. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/09523360008714148.10.1080/09523360008714148 Search in Google Scholar

Kanemasu, Yoko, and Molnar, Gyozo (2013): Pride of the people: Fijian rugby labour migration and collective identity. International Review for the Sociology of Sport 48(6): 720–735. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/1012690212453655.10.1177/1012690212453655 Search in Google Scholar

Kivisto, Peter (2018): Citizenship: T.H. Marshall and Beyond in Outhwaite, William, and Turner, Stephen, J. ed. (2017): The SAGE Handbook of Political Sociology, 2v. Sage.10.4135/9781526416513.n25 Search in Google Scholar

Lakisa, David, Adair, Daryl, & Taylor, Tracy (2014): Pasifika diaspora and the changing face of Australian Rugby League. The Contemporary Pacific, 347–367. Available at: 10.1353/cp.2014.002910.1353/cp.2014.0029 Search in Google Scholar

Maguire, Joseph., & Tuck, Jason (1998): Global sports and patriot games: Rugby union and national identity in a united sporting kingdom since 1945. Immigrants & Minorities 17(1): 103–126. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/02619288.1998.997493110.1080/02619288.1998.9974931 Search in Google Scholar

Markovits, Andrei. S., & Rensmann, Lars (2013): Gaming the world: how sports are reshaping global politics and culture. Princeton University Press. Search in Google Scholar

Pieterse, Jan, N. (2015): Globalization and Culture: Global Mélange. Rowman & Littlefield. Search in Google Scholar

Overton, John, Murray, Warwick, E., and Heitger, Jo. (2013). Pass the passport! Geographies of the Rugby World Cup 2011. New Zealand Geographer 69(2): 94–107. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/nzg.12013.10.1111/nzg.12013 Search in Google Scholar

Poli, Raffaeli (2007): The denationalization of sport: De-ethnicization of the nation and identity deterritorialization). Sport in Society 10(4): 646–661. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/17430430701388798.10.1080/17430430701388798 Search in Google Scholar

Pienaar, Sare, J., and Koch, Karen (2012): Antecedents influencing rugby migration in South Africa.10.19030/iber.v11i11.7371 Search in Google Scholar

Price, Steve (2020): ‘FIFA Eligibility Rule Change Offers World Cup Hopes For ‘One-Cap Wonders’’, Forbes (19 September 2020): Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/steveprice/2020/09/19/fifa-eligibility-rule-change-offers-world-cup-hopes-for-one-cap--wonders/?sh=3b913810511e. Search in Google Scholar

Reiche, Danyel, and Tinaz, Cem (2019): Policies for naturalisation of foreign-born athletes: Qatar and Turkey in comparison. International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics 11(1): 153–171. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/19406940.2018.1528994.10.1080/19406940.2018.1528994 Search in Google Scholar

Reiche, Danyel (2018): The Role of the Lebanese-Australian Diaspora in the Establishment of Rugby League in Lebanon. The International Journal of the History of Sport 35(5): 448–467.10.1080/09523367.2018.1534830 Search in Google Scholar

RLIF (2016): “3 Eligibility for International Rugby League (9 February 2019): Available at http://www.rlif.com/ignite_docs/20160920%20RLIF%20Eligibility%20Rules%20-%20Final.pdf. Search in Google Scholar

Sakata, Hiroshi (2004): ‘The influence of foreign players on the transformation of Japanese rugby over the last three decade,’ (9 February 2019): Available at https://ir.canterbury.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/10092/2277/Thesis_fulltext.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y. Search in Google Scholar

Schroeder, Pete, & Janssen, Chriss (2012): Sport Labour Migration: Managing a twenty-first--century global workforce in Managing Sport: 169–192. Routledge. Search in Google Scholar

Spiro, Peter, J. (2016): ‘At Home in Two Countries: The past and future of dual citizenship.’ NYU Press, Vol. 11.10.18574/nyu/9780814785829.001.0001 Search in Google Scholar

Spiro, Peter, J. (2020): ‘Citizenship: What Everyone Needs To Know.’ Oxford University Press.10.1093/wentk/9780190917302.001.0001 Search in Google Scholar

Wigmore, Tim (2016): ‘Playing Rugby, Representing… Multiple Countries’, The New York Times (9 February 2019): Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/28/sports/rugby/nationality--rule-change.html. Search in Google Scholar

Woods, Dave (2017): ‘Rugby League World Cup 2017: How Has the Sport Become So Popular in Lebanon?’ BBC (9 February 2019): Available at: https://www.bbc.com/sport/rugby--league/41805294. Search in Google Scholar

World Bowls (2018): Regulations in full. (21 September 2020): Available at: http://www.world-bowls.com/about-us/regulations-in-full/. Search in Google Scholar

World Rugby (2016): “Regulation 8.” (9 February 2019): Available at: https://www.worldrugby.org/wr-resources/WorldRugbyDIR/Handbook/English/pubData/source/files/Regulation8.pdf. Search in Google Scholar

World Rugby (2019): ‘RWC 2019 sets new broadcast records and inspires new audiences’, (7 September 2020): Available at: https://www.rugbyworldcup.com/news/564996#:~:text=Those%20impressive%20figures%20helped%20to,cent%2C%20or%20172%20million%20viewers. Search in Google Scholar

World Rugby (2020): ‘Regulation national team representation (COVID-19 residency criteria adjustment)’, (27 June 2021): Available at: https://www.world.rugby/news/579716/regulation-8-national-team-representation-covid-19-residency-criteria-adjustment. Search in Google Scholar

World Squash Federation. ‘World Squash Championship Regulations. 1 December 2019,’ (21 September 2020): Available at: http://www.worldsquash.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/191201_Championship-Regulations-V9.0.pdf. Search in Google Scholar

Recommended articles from Trend MD

Plan your remote conference with Sciendo