Alivereti Raka will formally become a French citizen on December 8, 2018, after his name appeared on a list of new nationals published in the Journal Officiel – the daily government gazette of all legal matters in France.
That means France coach Jacques Brunel can unleash him as early as the 2019 Six Nations now he has cleared the final hurdle to selection for Les Bleus that had been put in place by FFR President Bernard Laporte.
Becoming a citizen usually requires living permanently in France for a minimum of five years, demonstrating a reasonable level of spoken and written French and knowing something of the country’s history and culture.
The required length of time living in France can be reduced in certain circumstances – which has allowed Raka to apply earlier.
Since he joined join Clermont Academy in November 2014, he has married a French national and become a father – which has reduced his residency requirement by one year. He still had to pass language and citizenship tests to qualify for a French passport.
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It had been widely predicted that the 25-year-old Clermont winger would play a key role in France’s November internationals against South Africa, Argentina and Fiji – but he was ultimately left out of Brunel’s squad following the reported intervention of Laporte days before it was publicly announced.
Shortly after his election in December 2016, Laporte announced France would no longer select non-French players for the national side. He has been true to his word, and clearly put his foot down ahead of November 2018’s trio of matches.
“We told World Rugby that we had made a decision not to select foreign players even if the regulations allow,” he said at the time.
That meant Raka – along with Montpellier’s South African-born lock Paul Willemse, who was also, rather more surprisingly, tipped for selection – had to officially become French citizens. The fact that their applications were complete and at the final rubber-stamp stage ahead of this month’s internationals was not good enough. The documents needed to be in their hands.
According to reports in France, Willemse’s citizenship application has yet to be formally approved by regional authorities.
Raka has scored 29 tries in 38 outings for Clermont, since making his first team debut in September 2015. Last season, he had touched down 13 times in 11 outings in all competitions when a torn ACL against Saracens in the Champions Cup ended his campaign in December 2017.
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