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Thursday, 23 March, 2000, 10:01 GMT
A thorn in rugby's side
The row continues as David Hilton is declared English
Ex-Scottish international John Beattie says the current furore over player eligibility is proving an embarrassment to the world game.

Is it true that Lawrence Dallaglio's middle name is McTavish?

Well, the bombshell has hit us now. After the row hit Welsh rugby, it turns out that our prop, David Hilton, never qualified to play for Scotland.

The game has lost credibility and Scotland and Wales have lost more than most.

John Beattie
The Bath butcher with the Edinburgh grandfather actually has his roots in Bristol. Shame, because we needed him for the game against England.

The truth is, this is all having a very damaging effect on rugby as a whole.

The game has lost credibility - Scotland and Wales more than most - as it appears to the outside world that they have been trying, to the point of carelessness, to keep up with the rest of the world by bringing in non-eligible players.

Lawrence Dallalgio: If only he was Scottish
Let's take it back a step or two. What does this all mean? What it all means is that small rugby countries like Wales and Scotland need players to help them to compete at the highest level.

We aren't Australia, or New Zealand, or South Africa. We have a limited gene pool, and in Scotland that means small, loud people, with dark hair and a liking for lager.

As compared to New Zealanders, who lie around in mud pools and do a strange dance, South Africans who eat meat three times a day and romp on the veldt - if that's not illegal - and Australians, who are now turning into opera lovers.

We are small, they are large people. We have probably felt as a country that we have needed every import that we can get our hands on.

More checks needed

Whose fault is it? Well, the SRU should have checked eligibility. That's the stark fact we're faced with.

Six Nations Championship
All of this happened in Hilton's case when he came down a well trodden route called the "Exiles", who were our men in England, and up here we got used to the fact that most of them talked with English accents.

It was our way as a country of finding the player who had, perhaps, slipped through England's net, but qualified to play for us - such as Damian Cronin, Paul Burnell and Ron Wilson.

Shane Howarth is one of two Welsh players likely to be declared ineligible
The reality is harsh, I know, but someone has to check whether what a player has said is true.

I like a good sequence of questions and the next question just has to be, 'What now?' Is he banished? I don't think so.

We must assume he thought he was telling the truth, and he has almost been deemed to be Scottish by the SRU's actions. They've given him forty-one caps, after all.

The effect it will have on the Scottish team will be one similar to Wales. The Welsh were able to turn it around once Shane Howarth had been dropped for not being Welsh.

Future rules will undoubtedly be tightened up, with perhaps a rule brought in that your parents had to be born in the country you want to represent, or a period of domicile, or some other tighter legislation.

I feel sorry for David. His family have signed an affidavit that they believed his claim was genuine.

To have all of this heaped upon you must be a nightmare. But not as big a nightmare as it is for world, and especially at the moment, Scottish rugby. There is, after all, the small matter of a clash against England coming up in just over a week.

Lawrence, come and play for us. My granny knew yours.

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See also:

22 Mar 00 | Rugby Union
Rugby given 'Mandela Trophy'
22 Mar 00 | Rugby Union
Eligibility row hits Scotland
22 Mar 00 | Rugby Union
Sinkinson: I'm not eligible for Wales
21 Mar 00 | Rugby Union
Aussies slap Wales with 60,000 bill
20 Mar 00 | Rugby Union
Henry 'determined' to finish task
20 Mar 00 | Rugby Union
Praying for a Scottish miracle
20 Mar 00 | Six Nations
Foreigners welcome in the valleys
18 Mar 00 | Six Nations
Woodward eyes Slam decider
18 Mar 00 | Six Nations
Williams double rocks Scots
18 Mar 00 | Six Nations
Young: Now lay off our coach
Links to other Rugby Union stories are at the foot of the page.