Rugby World Cup 2015: South Africa-born Josh Strauss has the 'right manner' to be a Scot

Former Scotland captain Al Kellock backs No 8's selection

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The Independent Online

Josh Strauss, the South African-born No 8 who only qualifies to play for Scotland on the eve of their World Cup campaign, sought out his former Glasgow captain Al Kellock to ensure he “does everything in the right manner to respect the Scottish jersey” and has convinced the former Scotland captain he is an appropriate choice to play for his adopted country.

The selection of a trio of players – Strauss, John Hardie and W P Nel – who qualify under residency rules or through a grandparent, by Scotland coach Vern Cotter, a New Zealander, has attracted criticism and controversy at home and abroad, but Kellock, who retired at the end of last season, insists Strauss deserves his place and will prove worthy of wearing the dark blue jersey.

“[Strauss] approached me on a couple of occasions and we had a few conversations,” said Kellock, who captained Scotland at the last World Cup. “He wants to make sure that he does everything in the right manner. He has got a huge amount of respect for the Scotland jersey. Obviously, he has not grown up in the country so what he has got to be judged on is the way he has carried himself all through this training camp and the way he carries himself when he gets the opportunity to pull that jersey on – and I have got no doubt, knowing him as I do, that he will do that and I look forward to seeing him wearing it.”

Strauss, a key player in Glasgow’s historic triumph in the Pro12 last season, fulfils the required three-year residency five days before Scotland play Japan on 23 September and is likely to feature in one of their first two pool games and then come into contention for the key fixtures against South Africa and Samoa.

Hardie, a flanker who arrived in Scotland only in July and qualifies through his grandmother in Fife, and Edinburgh prop Nel, another South African selected after meeting the three-year residency rule, made their debuts in the recent series of warm-up games. Sean Maitland and Tim Visser, now established internationals, qualified similarly.

 

 

 

A number of former players, among them Peter Wright and Kenny Logan, have voiced their unease at the Scottish Rugby Union’s policy of recruiting and parachuting in players from overseas – Scotland has the smallest player base in the Six Nations – but Kellock, Strauss’s team-mate through his three years in Glasgow, has no problem with it.

“I am comfortable with it because it is the law,” Kellock told The Independent. “Whether we need to look at the law is a debate for the decision makers. I am comfortable with the fact that I know when big Josh pulls on that jersey he will represent Scotland in the way it needs to be done. Josh and I have had a lot of conversations about it over the last wee while because this was on the horizon, and when it comes down to it, it is about the quality of the man. He will respect the opportunity he has been given, respect the history of the jersey he is wearing and go out and fill it – and if he doesn’t he will be getting a phone call from me!”

Scotland are far from the only country to select players via residency and grandparent rules – all major nations have done it and continue to do so. To pluck two at random, the New Zealander Jared Payne is a key man in Ireland’s midfield, while Scott Spedding, once of South Africa’s Under-21 side, offers France attacking menace from full-back.

World Rugby, the sport’s governing body, is to re-examine its qualification rules after the tournament. The issue is a hot one in Scotland because of Cotter’s World Cup picks, coming after the SRU’s recruitment of an “International Resettlement Adviser” this summer – the role is to seek out players in the southern hemisphere who might be attracted to Glasgow or Edinburgh and then, in due course, Scotland.

Hardie is still to find a club but those around the squad insist his presence, or that of Nel or Strauss, has not been an issue among the home-grown players.

“Everyone in the group, no matter where they were born or what their background is, feels Scottish and are really proud to represent the country,” said Matt Taylor, Scotland’s defence coach and himself Australian-born to Scottish parents. “They know we are representing the whole country – from my point of view they do.”

Hardie, who made his debut in Italy and won a second cap with an impressive performance against France last weekend, has settled in well and been welcomed by his new team-mates, according to Taylor.

“He has come in and worked extremely hard in training,” said Taylor. “When you get a chance to talk to the other players, they really like him and think he is a good part of the squad.”

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