A passport to Test rugby
November 1, 2012
Rotorua's finest Dylan Hartley has developed into one of England's key players © Getty Images
Mako Vunipola's call up to the England squad last week saw another New Zealand-born player pencilled in to play for a European nation. And as recently as Sunday, Ireland drafted in Kiwi-born Michael Bent to their squad for the November Tests - a prop who has just finished playing in the ITM Cup for Taranaki.
And following on from their call up ahead of the autumn internationals, this week's Scrum Sevens looks at the well trodden path of a player hailing from the land of the long white cloud opting to play for one of the six prominent rugby-playing European nations.
Dylan Hartley (England)
Although he may miss the autumn internationals due to injury, Hartley is undoubtedly England's first-choice hooker. A potential Lion in the making, Hartley, who hails from Rotorua, took his bow for England back in 2008 against the Pacific Islanders. He featured in four matches during the 2011 World Cup and is in the frame for a spot on the plane to Australia in 2013 with the British & Irish Lions. He's had his fair share of brushes with the law and was banned for 26 weeks after being charged with gouging James Haskell and Jonny O'Connor back in 2007. But the Northampton Saints now look up to him as their captain and although aged 26, he has already garnered the reputation as one of the world's premier hookers.
England are no strangers to Kiwi-born players pulling on the red rose shirt with Shontayne Hape and Thomas Waldrom both winning Test caps and if you go back a little further, then you encounter Jamie Salmon who turned out for both the All Blacks and England.
Paul Griffen (Italy)
The sight of an Australian, South African or a New Zealander turning out for the Azzurri is nothing new. Griffen is just one of a lengthy list of southern hemisphere-born players who have Italy Test caps to their name. The scrum-half, who was born in Dunedin, cut a distinctive figure while he played for Italy due to his extravagant ponytail hairstyle and he won 42 caps.
Other New Zealanders who played for Italy include Josh Sole (born in Hamilton and won 47 caps), Kaine Robertson (born in Auckland and similar to Sole obtained 47 caps), Matthew Phillips (hailing from Kaitaia and won 14 caps between 2002 and 2003) and Scott Palmer (Palmerston North's finest and played 12 times for Italy).
Hemi Taylor (Wales)
Hemi Taylor breaks away against Scotland © PA Photos
The back-rower was brought over by Newbridge RFC from Morrinsville in New Zealand and eventually played 24 times for Wales. He made his debut for the national side in a World Cup qualifier against Portugal in Lisbon - a match they won 102-11 - and was part of their squad for the 1995 World Cup. But he missed the previous Five Nations after injuring his hand while on a night out in Cardiff - a team he captained and played more than a hundred matches for.
He was named 45th in Wales on Sunday's list of the 50 hardest men to play for the country and Taylor established a reputation of being a physical and combative blindside and also had some game time for the Barbarians.
Isaac Boss (Ireland)
If Bent plays for Ireland then he will follow in the footsteps of Boss who also hails from New Zealand. Born in Tokoroa, Boss played for Waikato, the Chiefs and the Hurricanes before being snapped up by Ulster in 2005. He became an integral part of their team and constantly featured at scrum-half for the province. His impressive domestic form led to Ireland calling him up ahead of their summer tour to, of all places, New Zealand in 2006.
He made his debut against the country of his birth on June 17 and has to date won 15 caps. Ten of those appearances have come from the bench and he can now be found turning out for Leinster and played in the 2011 Heineken Cup final.
Tony Marsh flies over against Wales © Getty Images
Tony Marsh (France)
One of Clermont Auvergne's favourite sons, Marsh is a Top 14 household name. Born in Rotorua, Marsh played in Super Rugby for the Blues and then the Crusaders in 1998 before switching to Montferrand. He played in three top flight finals for Les Jaunards in 1999, 2001 and 2007 and also won the European Challenge Cup in 1999 and 2007.
Bernard Laporte called him up to the France squad in 2001 and he went on to win 21 caps over a three-year spell. But what is perhaps most remarkable about Marsh is that during that time, he overcame testicular cancer and recovered to play six games in the 2003 World Cup which also included their semi-final loss to eventual champions England.
Glenn Metcalfe (Scotland)
Auckland-born Metcalfe took his bow for the Scots back in June 1998 against Australia in Sydney and five years later, Scotland's quarter-final loss in the 2003 World Cup in Brisbane proved to be his final match in the famous blue jersey. He won an impressive total of 40 caps and scored four tries from his fullback position. Matcalfe is now back living in New Zealand but he can look back on an impressive career that also included spells with Glasgow and Castres.
Glenn Metcalfe charges forward against Uruguay © Getty Images
And Metcalfe is not the only Kiwi-born Scotland international. There are a fair number of players who have hailed from New Zealand and pulled on the famous thistle-embroidered jersey. Fly-half-come-centre Brendan Laney (born in Invercargill and played 20 times for Scotland), Sean Lineen (from Auckland and won 29 caps), back-rower Cameron Mather (hailing from Christchurch and played 10 matches) and the Lower Hutt's Leslie brothers all turned out for the national side.
Shane Howarth ('Wales')
Howarth played four Tests for the All Blacks and then switched to England to play for Sale and then to Wales where he turned out for Newport. International Rugby Board regulations permitted players to play for more than one country during their career and due to Howarth's grandfather being born in Wales, Howarth opted to play for them around the turn of the Millennium. He played 19 times for the country but it soon transpired that Auckland-born Howarth's grandfather actually hailed from New Zealand. His final match for Wales was against England in 2000 and after it became apparent that he had no Welsh ancestry, he was banned from turning out for the country.
A similar fate also befell Brett Sinkinson - another figure implicated in 'grannygate' as it was coined back in 2000. Sinkinson was born in Rotorua and believed that his grandfather was from Carmarthen when in fact he was from Oldham. Sinkinson was barred from playing for Wales but later returned when he qualified on residency grounds and totted up a total of 20 caps.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.
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