Since the dawn of professionalism England has been accused by many of relying heavily on foreign-born talent to bolster its ranks at the highest level of the sport.
The thorny issue of rugby’s residency rules has come back into the rugby community’s collective consciousness once more with new FFR president Bernard Laporte stating only ‘homegrown’ players will be able to be selected for Les Bleus from now onwards.
Yet, when we look at England’s current crop of players, very few were born and/or bred outside of the country.
We have to take away the Vunipola brothers – Mako and Billy – who were born in Australasia and raised in Wales when following their rugby playing Tongan father Fe’ao around the world.
Although captain Dylan Hartley was born and raised in New Zealand, his mother is English and he did not qualify through residency rules. He is half-English. If you want to be particularly pedantic then swap Dylan Hartley for Welwyn Garden city-born Jamie George.
As for the current EPS 45 man squad, the following players were not born in England: Jack Clifford (Australia), Teimana Harrison (New Zealand), Nathan Hughes (Fiji), Mike Williams (Zimbabwe), Ben Te’o (New Zealand), Marland Yarde (St Lucia), Semesa Rokoduguni (Fiji), and Manu Tuilagi (Samoa).
Out of those players Clifford and Harrison qualified for England through parentage. Adding in the Vunipolas, that’s eight players from the 45-man squad that qualified on residency. That’s just under 18% of players, or less than a fifth.
It should also be mentioned that Yarde moved to England at the age of nine.
The ‘homegrown’ team would therefore look like this:
1) Joe Marler
2) Dylan Hartley/Jamie George
3) Dan Cole
4) Maro Itoje
5) George Kruis
6) Chris Robshaw
7) James Haskell
8) Josh Beaumont
9) Ben Youngs
10) George Ford
11) Jack Nowell
12) Owen Farrell
13) Jonathan Joseph
14) Anthony Watson
15) Mike Brown
What do these numbers therefore tell us? Well, England is now leaning more and more on its academies rather than resorting to the residency rules to fill in gaps. Over 82 per cent of players were born in the country or qualified through parentage.
So, the next time someone tries to tell you the England team is made up of foreign-born players, you know they’re living in a post-truth world.
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena