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Time to revise rules over player eligibility

It must be something in the Scottish water.

How else can you explain the optimism which invariably creeps into every Scottish sport's fan's psyche in the build-up to major sporting events? Our football team are notorious for beginning qualifying campaigns on the crest of a wave of positivity, only to flounder on the shore of disappointment.

This time, it's the turn of the national rugby team. Scotland travel to Twickenham to play England on Saturday in their first match of this year's RBS 6 Nations hoping to redeem themselves following their whitewash in last year's championship. The form book indicates that Scotland are unlikely to emerge victorious, but that's the beauty of sport, isn't it? Anything can happen.

The current Scotland team generate greater confidence than the squad of 2012, and this belief is largely due to the recent introduction of winger Tim Visser. He possesses the most valuable asset in rugby: the ability to score tries – and he does it with impressive regularity, as his standing as top try scorer in the RaboDirect Pro12 league for the past three seasons demonstrates.

There's just one problem, however. Visser is not Scottish. He was born and raised in the Netherlands before moving to England and then subsequently signing for Edinburgh in 2009. He qualified to play for the Scottish national team on residency grounds in June last year.

There is little argument that Visser improves the Scotland team, but selecting him – and players in a similar situation who are not truly Scottish – devalues the honour of being awarded a cap in my opinion.

I do not lay the blame of picking such players at the door of the Scottish Rugby Union. In fact, if they did not select them, they would be putting Scotland at a disadvantage to every other country which currently exploits the rules as they stand. I do, however, firmly believe that the rules should be revised to allow only "true Scots" to play for our national team.

It is tricky to know where to draw the line. I can accept a player being eligible through parentage, although I think it is pushing it when the rules are extended to include grandparents. For example, the recent criticism of kilted Kiwi, Sean Maitland, is perhaps unwarranted as he qualifies through his father.

More worrying than Maitland being granted selection as a result of his bloodline, is the willingness to select foreign players on the basis of residency alone. The current rules state that if a player is resident in a country for three years, and hasn't represented another country in that time, then they meet the qualification criteria. The concept of project players, which involves the SRU actively seeking-out foreign players to bring to Scotland with a view to them becoming Scottish internationalists in three years' time, is surely a step backwards in terms of developing Scottish rugby in the long term.

Invariably, players such as South African WP Nel, who signed for Edinburgh as a project player, would only agree to defect because they are not good enough to play for their own country. This actively stunts development within the Scottish game and consequently of "true" Scottish players. There is a risk that the signing of project players will shunt developing Scottish players down the pecking order.

I experienced a similar problem during my badminton career. I played in Commonwealth Games and European Championships which were won by Chinese players who had been naturalised on the basis of residency. I would have accumulated more caps than the 90 I was awarded if I hadn't had to battle for selection with a Chinese player who represented Scotland through the residency rules.

If Visser scores the winning try on Saturday, I will be cheering as loudly as the next Scottish fan. But if I'm honest, I'd rather see that try scored by a true Scot, who has been dreaming of beating the Auld Enemy since childhood.

I think it is pushing it when the rules are extended to include grandparents

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