Murrayfield chiefs have launched a search for foreign-born but Scottish-qualified talent as they look to offset the threat posed by World Rugby’s new stricter rules on residency eligibility.
The Scottish Rugby Union says it will scour the world to find players eligible to play for Gregor Townsend’s national team as part of its new Scottish Qualified programme.
But England is expected to be the main battle ground as the Scots look to prise talented youngsters north of the border.
It comes after World Rugby voted to increase the required residency period to be eligible for international rugby from three to five years.
The Scots have used the three-year rule to their advantage in recent years, recruiting the likes of South Africa-born duo WP Nel and Josh Strauss as well as Holland-born Tim Visser.
But with the stricter rules coming into force on January 1, the SRU now realises it needs to increase its network of spies in order to sniff out the next batch of Anglo or foreign -born Scots.
Current Scotland internationals Henry Pyrgos, Ali Price, Ryan Wilson, Tim Swinson and Hamish Watson were all born in England but qualify through either a Scottish parent or grandparent, while the likes of Huw Jones were born in Edinburgh but made the professional breakthrough playing in South Africa.
Now the SRU has hired a team of talent scouts – including three former Scotland internationals – to ensure its reach goes further than ever before.
Ex-internationals Rory Lawson, Alan Tait and Ian Smith, alongside Worcester’s former head of recruitment Jan McGinity, will have a specific remit to search out “appropriate talent” and also mentor more established players identified through the SRU’s existing UK-based Exiles programme.
The SRU has also linked up with a number of coaches based in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, France and even Japan to ensure it has a ” network of trusted eyes and ears on the ground”.
SRU chief executive Mark Dodson said: “Our remit is to put out the most competitive Scotland sides across all our representative teams.
“Therefore, like other nations in the global game, we are keen to maximise every opportunity to bring eligible players of the required standard into our programmes to create more choice in selection and raise standards across the board.
“Given our modest playing base, we will always need to add depth to our high-performance group and believe we present a compelling case to relevant players to pursue their international ambitions with Scotland.”