RFU chief Ian Ritchie denies hypocrisy allegations over Denny Solomona's England call-up

Daniel Schofield
Denny Solomona breaks to score a try for Sale against Exeter last month - Rex Features

Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie on Friday defended himself from accusations of hypocrisy in allowing England head coach Eddie Jones to select New Zealand born winger Denny Solomona in his squad to face Argentina.

Ritchie is spearheading the calls at a World Rugby council meeting in Tokyo next month to change the residency rule by extending the qualification period from three to five years. Ireland and Scotland, who oppose the measure, have previously been criticised for deliberately recruiting “project” players from the Southern Hemisphere.

However, Ritchie sees no problem in allowing Jones to select Solomona, who completed his three-year residency last month, while fighting to change that very rule. “I don’t see anything inconsistent at all,” Ritchie said. “The current rule is three years. We checked very carefully that Denny hits the current qualification. Why therefore would not one pick him?

“I would say to Eddie pick the player first and foremost. It is your rugby call as to who you want to play. If he qualifies and is currently qualified there is nothing at all inconsistent with saying that’s fine you have to pick him.

“If we feel that down the line, which we do, that five years is a perfectly decent period and we have been fairly public about that. When it comes up in Kyoto in May we will be supporting five years.

England's overseas-born XV

“There’s nothing inconsistent at all in saying in the current rules he is eligible to play, therefore we will play him, but we believe in five years and when five years comes in we will adhere to the rules. I’m a great believer in sticking to the rules. We will stick to the rules once we have changed the rules.

“I don’t see it as hypocritical. I simply see it as here is a rule, we adhere to this rule and we also believe it is right to change it and have been lobbying to change it. When it changes we will adhere to that rule when it is changed.”

France have preempted that World Rugby meeting, which is expected to approve the measure, by implementing a voluntary proposal to select only foreign players who have a French passport. The RFU also have a policy to select overseas players, unless they have signed for an English club such as Sam Underhill or Piers Francis, but Ritchie was not tempted to follow suit with the residency regulations.

“I was aware of the French doing that and had discussions with them about that,” Ritchie said. “We do what we do in terms of players based overseas and we think that’s right. We did not believe it was right to do anything different about the three-year rule in advance of the five-year rule.

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