World Rugby boss sparks outrage at 'foreign player' list

Agustin Pichot (Getty)
Agustin Pichot (Getty)

Cape Town - World Rugby vice-chairperson Agustin Pichot has sparked outrage among the home nations by sharing a list of the top international teams and adding what percentage of their squads include players "not born in their countries".

According to the Stuff.co.nz website, Pichot's tweet, posted on Wednesday and featuring statistics for the top 11 rugby-playing nations, has led to calls for the former Argentina halfback to resign for "fanning the flames of xenophobia".

The 44-year-old's post lists Scotland (46.3 percent) on top for having the most "foreign-born players" in their squad for the November Tests, while South Africa and Argentina are bottom (both with 0 percent).

New Zealand is listed second from bottom with 12.5 percent, while Japan (37.1), Italy (29.7), Australia (29.4), England (27.7), Ireland (26.1), Wales (24.3), France (12.9) are ranked from second to eighth.

According to Pichot's list, England, Ireland and Wales all have approximately double the number of New Zealand's players born overseas in their respective squads.

Northern rugby scribes have traditionally criticised the All Blacks for pinching talent from the Pacific Islands, but last year it was shown that England had actually been the home of poaching in rugby since 2005.

Only four of the initial 32-man All Blacks squad named for their current northern tour were born overseas: Nepo Laulala (Apia, Samoa), Ofa Tu'ungafasi (Nuku?alofa, Tonga), Vaea Fifita (Vava?u, Tonga) and Waisake Naholo (Sigatoka, Fiji).

As for Pichot, his offending tweet caused quite the stir and the post had drawn close to 3 000 reactions by Thursday.

Twitter users accused Pichot of "total xenophobia" and said he was talking nonsense.

It's not the first time Pichot has spoken out about the subject of players opting to represent a nation they were not born in.

The Argentinian said rugby was "losing something" when former Hurricanes captain Brad Shields was first pictured in an England shirt in a photo posted by veteran New Zealand sports broadcaster Keith Quinn, who asked: "Is this a sad picture? I think so – what about you?"

Pichot replied to Quinn: "Algo se esta perdiendo ('something's missing' in English). We are losing something... the game is losing something..."

Pichot, who made 71 appearances for Argentina from 1995-2008, was instrumental in having World Rugby extend the qualification period for players to switch countries from three to five years living in their new country.

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