Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie has defended Eddie Jones’ decision to select New Zealand born-wing Denny Solomona despite the union lobbying to extend the residency rule to five years.
Solomona is set to win his first rugby union cap after being included in a 31-man squad that will embark on a two-Test tour of Argentina in June.
The Auckland-born 23-year-old controversially switched codes in December by swapping Castleford for Sale and continues to be every bit as prolific, scoring 10 tries in 13 appearances for the Sharks.
Since making a solitary appearance for Samoa last year, he has since qualified for England and pledged his allegiance to the RBS 6 Nations champions, following in the footsteps of recent converts from overseas Ben Te’o and Nathan Hughes.
Solomona recently completed the three-year residency period to make him eligible for England. The RFU, however, wants that rule extended to five years – a measure which will be voted on by the World Rugby Council at their Kyoto summit next month.
“I don’t see it as hypocritical,” Ritchie said of Solomona’s recent selection. “The current rule is three years. We checked very carefully that Denny hits the current qualification. Why therefore would one not pick him?
“If he qualifies, and is currently qualified, there is nothing at all inconsistent with saying ‘that’s fine you have to pick him’.
“If we feel that down the line, which we do, that five years is a perfectly decent period, and we have been fairly public about that. When it comes up in Kyoto in May we will be supporting five years.
“I simply see it as here is a rule, we adhere to this rule and we also believe it is right to change it and have been lobbying to change it. When it changes we will adhere to that rule. End of.”
Meanwhile, the RFU is standing by its proposal to reduce the length of the Six Nations from seven to six weeks despite facing widespread opposition to their plans.
The union is keen to remove one of the tournament’s two fallow weeks in an effort to create space in the calendar for the new global season, which takes effect after the 2019 World Cup.
England pair Joe Marler and George Ford have both been critical over the plans to condense the calendar – with the former describing it as ”ridiculous” – while Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg has also voiced his concerns.
Truncating the tournament would generate greater momentum, but scrapping a rest week could also be seen to favour England and France because of their bigger playing pools and greater financial might. And although Ritchie admits the controversial proposal is not fixed, they are still keen for its implementation.
”No, it is not set in stone and it is still under discussion within the Six Nations,” Ritchie added. “We still think it works, but we need to deal with it and have further discussions.
“It’s not a categorical agreement at the moment. It’s about the whole season, not just the Six Nations.
”The seven-to-six situation is something that we were supportive of and believe it is a decent thing to do. And while we don’t think it is that impactful in terms of player welfare, I can understand the concerns from the other nations.”