OF the 31 individuals who were named in Gregor Townsend’s World Cup squad on Tuesday, 14 (just over 45 per cent) were born outside Scotland – highlighting just how reliant the national team has become on overseas playing resources.

Five of the “overseas” players were born in England (Chris Harris, Duncan Taylor, Ali Price, Ryan Wilson and Hamish Watson), two each were born in Australia (Sam Johnson and Ben Toolis) and South Africa (Allan Dell and WP Nel), three in New Zealand (Sean Maitland, Simon Berghan and Blade Thomson), one in USA (Tommy Seymour) and John Barclay was born in Hong Kong, albeit because his Scottish parents were there for work at the time, and he was raised in Scotland.

This is hardly a new phenomenon. The famous Scotland Grand Slam-winning team of 1925 contained three antipodeans in its vaunted backline: Arthur Wallace from New South Wales, George Aitken from Westport in New Zealand and Ian Smith born in Melbourne. Plus, John Paterson from Liverpool in the pack.

Neither is it a unique phenomenon to Scotland. New Zealand and Australia have long and not particularly glorious histories of pilfering Pacific Islanders to boost their ranks.

France’s formidable winger

Aliverati Raka – who played both recent games against Scotland – is Fijian born and bred. He moved to France in 2014 through a partnership agreement between Clermont and his local club side, and became a French citizen in December 2018.

England wing phenomenon Joe Cokanasiga was born in Fiji but moved to England when his dad joined the British Army, so – like Barclay – it would be churlish to question his credentials to wear the rose.

His team-mate, Manu Tuilagi, is a slightly different matter. He was born in Samoa, has five brothers who played for Samoa, his full name is Manusamoa after the Samoan international team – but moved to the UK when he was 13 to join his brothers who were playing club rugby for Leicester in 2004 and has never looked back. In 2010, Tuilagi faced possible deportation from the UK after it became known that he had entered the country on a holiday visa six years earlier and had stayed on illegally. After an appeal, he was later granted indefinite leave to remain.

Meanwhile, scrum-half Willi Heinz was born, raised and played all of his rugby in New Zealand, before moving to Gloucester in 2015 when he was 28. He qualifies to play for England through his Southampton-born grandmother.

Across the Irish Sea, there has been a fair old kerfuffle this week over the exclusion of stalwart second-row Devin Toner from Joe Schmidt’s World Cup squad, with South Africa-born Jean Kleyn being selected instead. Kleyn made his Ireland debut against Italy last month, just two days after qualifying to wear the green on residency grounds.

So, we shouldn’t get our knickers into too much of a twist over the fact that Scotland are doing the same as almost everyone else. As the smallest tier one nation in terms of player numbers, it makes sense that we should look for a little bit of outside help. And we are not breaking any rules. There is, however, a danger that we are becoming a little too reliant on this approach. Just under a year ago, World Rugby’s vice chairman, the former Argentinean scrum-half Augustin Pichot, tweeted a list of countries ordered by percentage of “foreign-born players” in their matchday squads during the 2018 November international window. Scotland led the way with 46.3 percent, some distance clear of second-place Japan on 37.1 percent.

The aim should always be to reduce this reliance on overseas players for the long-term health of the game. As a participation sport, we want as many players as possible to reach the highest level through our own system. Otherwise, what is the point?