Sunday, June 8, 2014

International Rugby: USA v Scotland Highlights

Photo Texas Rugby Union
Scotland started its four test match tour with an away victory over the USA in Houston on Saturday evening. Played in humid conditions the Europeans played impressive rugby in the opening half to hold a 17-3 lead which was converted into a 24-6 victory on fulltime. Scotland will now travel to Toronto to take-on Canada next Saturday at the BMO Field while the USA is to host Japan in a Pacific Nations Cup match in California. Just over 20,000 spectators attended the match in Houston. A similar size is expected in Toronto next weekend.   


While Scotland's victory was comfortable it was not the scoreline nor how Scotland played that should have supporters concerned. Rather it was the make-up of the team which was concerning. Of the twenty-three players that either started against the USA Eagles or were on the bench 43.47% are not Scots by birth. Sean Maitland, Blair Cowan and Grayson Hart are all New Zealanders, Jim Hamilton, Duncan Taylor, Alex Allan, Kieran Low, Ruaridh Jackson and Max Evans are all English while Tim Visser is from Tier 3 nation, Holland. 

All players representing Scotland are entitled to do so under IRB laws. The SRU is therefore well within its rights to have each and everyone of the above mentioned players wearing Scottish colors. But considering that Scotland has dropped from the heights of the 1990s, which saw a Semi Final appearance in the World Cup in 1991 and being crowned champion of the final edition of the Five Nations in 1999, serious questions  such as foreigners, some arguably mercenaries, in the team cannot be ignored.

By way of comparison the USA Eagles had three or five players born abroad, depending on interpretation. Luke Hume and Hayden Smith are  both Australians while Chad London is from South Africa. In addition the Suniula brothers, Andrew and Shalom were born in American Samoa, now an official IRB member but not so when both debuted for the USA either for the Eagles or Sevens. 13.04% of the USA team was therefore born abroad or 21.73% should one consider the Suniula brothers as being foreigners. 

Birth, of course, is far from being a definitive factor in determining ones nationality. Ruaridh Jackson, for instance, is a Scot born in England. He was schooled in Aberdeen and speaks with a Scottish accent. Overall though the pattern of Scotland requiring more players that can be capped through parental eligibility is quite remarkable. With the sport growing in the USA the team is becoming increasingly American with the need to cap through eligibility not as crucial as it was in previous Rugby World Cups.

USA
15 Chris Wyles, 14 Blaine Scully, 13 Seamus Kelly, 12 Andrew Suniula, 11 Luke Hume, 10 Shalom Suniula, 9 Mike Petri, 8 Cam Dolan, 7 Scott LaValla, 6 Todd Clever, 5 Hayden Smith, 4 Lou Stanfill, 3 Eric Fry, 2 Phil Thiel, 1 Olive Kilifi

16 Tom Coolican, 17 Nick Wallace, 18 Titi Lamositele, 19 Tai Tuisamoa, 20 Danny Barrett,  21 Folau Niua, 22 Chad London, 23 Tim Maupin

Penalty: Wyles (2)

Scotland  
15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Sean Lamont, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Johnnie Beattier, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Geoff Cross, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Gordon Reid

16 Pat MacArthur, 17 Alex Allan, 18 Moray Low, 19 Grant Gilchrist, 20 Kieran Low, 21 Grayson Hart, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Max Evans

Try:  Hogg, Visser, Penalty Try
Conversion: Laidlaw (3)
Penalty: Laidlaw

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