Lions shock: Finn Russell to use sevens loophole to change international allegiance and boost tour selection chances
Scotland star Finn Russell has begun the process to change his international eligibility in the hope of improving his chances of selection for the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa. Russell, who was red-carded in his side’s latest win over France in the final week of this year’s Guinness Six Nations championship, has been a key performer for Scotland since his international debut in 2014.
Arguably one of the top players in Europe over the past 24 months, Russell is considered by some to be a shoo-in for Lions selection but it is understood that the player himself doesn’t hold out much hope of receiving a phone call from Warren Gatland in the coming weeks.
Rightly or wrongly, there is a belief that Scottish players are unfavourably assessed by Gatland, who spent twelve years as head coach of the Wales national side and is set to take charge of his third Lions campaign this year.
Just two Scottish players – Tommy Seymour and Stuart Hogg – were named in the initial Lions squad for the 2017 tour to New Zealand. Greg Laidlaw was called up pre-tour to replace Ben Youngs while two other Scots were temporarily called into the squad during the tour as part of the Geography Six, Allan Dell and Russell.
With competition coming from the likes of England’s Owen Farrell and George Ford, Ireland’s Johnny Sexton and Wales’ Dan Biggar, Russell is understood to be concerned that his Scottish allegiance could harm his chances and is hopeful that converting to Welsh eligibility could improve his standing with Gatland.
An appearance for Tonga ?? at an Olympics 7s qualifier in June on the same weekend as the Premiership semi-finals could open the door to World Cup 2023 in France #GallagherPrem #Tokyo2020https://t.co/zc78U9zjNG
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 30, 2021
This is possible through the sevens ‘loophole’ which grants players the opportunity to effectively change nationalities – at least from World Rugby’s point of view. Under World Rugby’s eligibility laws – modified due to certain Olympics requirements – it is possible for Russell to commit to representing Wales instead of Scotland in the XVs form of the game if he is able to play in four officially sanctioned sevens tournaments for his new country.
Typically, competitors who have represented one country may switch to another only if they hold a passport for the new country and do not represent the former country for three years. The rules can be modified at the discretion of World Rugby, however, and RugbyPass understands that Russell has countless supporters on the board of the governing body.
It is through a similar process that Charles Piutau and Malakai Fekitoa, who previously represented the All Blacks, are said to be considering a stint representing Tonga on the world stage. Sources have confirmed that World Rugby have begun the process of arranging official World Sevens series tournaments over the coming four weekends before the Lions squad is officially named on May 6.
RugbyPass approached the Scotland out-half for comment on the developing story but instead received a response from his agent, April Phillips. “Finn does not wish to comment on the rumours surrounding a change of international eligibility,” Phillips said. “We can confirm, however, that at some stage during the year, one way or another, Finn will be wearing red.”
It’s an unprecedented turn of events – but one that will no doubt leave fans excited at the possibility of seeing Russell run out for the Lions when they take on the world champion Springboks in South Africa.
- This is clearly a parody article and not to be taken seriously – Happy April Fools Day!
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