The Impact of American Samoa on U.S. rugby
Wed, 05/23/2012 - 4:16pm
The IRB announced this week that American Samoa has been granted full IRB membership and is now eligible for all IRB events such as the World Cup and the Sevens Series. While it is great that the international rugby community is continuing to grow, there is no doubt that this move will have a significant affect on rugby in the United States. Exactly what that may be and whether that is a positive or a negative is another story.
As an unincorporated territory of the United States, residents of American Samoa are U.S. nationals but not U.S. citizens. This means that they are entitled to free entry into the U.S. to live and to work. However, they are not allowed to vote in national elections and must abide by residency rules established for resident aliens. If one parent is a U.S. citizen than any children may also apply to be U.S. citizens. Okay, but what does this mean for the U.S. rugby team? That is what is unclear.
One of the biggest question is how IRB defines nationality? Would a player born in American Samoa be eligible for both American Samoa and the United States or would they have to be U.S. citizens? One of the few situations similar to this circumstance is the Cook Islands, which have an independent rugby union but whose players are New Zealand citizens. A quick scan for famous players from the Cook Islands seems to show that many of their players had multiple playing options and chose the Cook Islands once it was clear they weren't going to be a Wallaby or an All Black. So would American Samoans make the same decision to wait for a chance with the Eagles? They would probably have a better shot at making the World Cup but the Eagles are no All Blacks and might not be able to attract the best players.