Eddie Jones to select Nathan Hughes and Mike Williams in England squad
Decision comes despite RFU support for stricter residency criteria
Nathan Hughes of Wasps: Fijian-raised backrow forward set to be named in England squad for autumn internationals. Photograph: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images.
England will select the Fiji-raised Nathan Hughes and Zimbabwe-born Mike Williams in their preparatory squad for this autumn’s internationals despite high-level support within the Rugby Football Union for stricter qualification criteria to deter players from switching allegiance to other countries.
Hughes, who qualifies under the three-year residency rule having relocated to England in 2013 to join Wasps, and Leicester’s Williams, born and bred in Bulawayo but eligible via a grandfather from Sussex, are physical backrow forwards keen to slot in alongside the Tonga-reared Vunipola brothers, the former Samoa league international Ben Te’o and, possibly, Bath’s Fijian soldier Semesa Rokoduguni in an increasingly cosmopolitan England dressing room.
There are discussions taking place within World Rugby, however, aimed at extending the residency period to five years, with the RFU’s chief executive, Ian Ritchie, and professional rugby director, Nigel Melville, expressing support for the proposal championed by the former Argentina captain Agustín Pichot.
“I know Gus’s view is to lengthen it a bit and I think probably that is a good idea,” Ritchie said. “If you ask my view I think it should be increased.”
Melville, who has taken over Rob Andrew’s old role, feels similarly: “I don’t see a problem in extending the residency period. I think it will get extended.”
Ritchie has no objection to Eddie Jones, picking Hughes under the regulations as they stand: “If the rule is there, then why wouldn’t you pick someone if you think he will add to your competitiveness? I can’t disagree with Eddie. He picks the team on merit and, as long as he picks somebody who is qualified, I have no issue at all.”
The upshot is the 25-year-old Hughes, who took up rugby aged 16 because his school team needed someone to make up the numbers, is set to be involved in England’s training camp in Brighton next week, having already featured in the 45-man preliminary squad named in the summer. England play South Africa on November 12th before facing Fiji (Nov 19th), Argentina (Nov 26th) and Australia (Dec 3rd). Guardian Service