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Tim Visser questions recruitment of ‘project players’

Support for World Rugby’s review into the three-year eligibility ruling has come from an unlikely source – Scotland’s adopted Dutchman, Tim Visser.

Driven by vice-chairman, Agustin Pichot, World Rugby are looking at extending the residency qualification period to five years to try to prevent nations naturalising overseas stars – so-called ‘project players’ – at the expense of home-grown talent.

Winger Visser qualified for Scotland in 2012 after living and playing professionally in Edinburgh for three years and has scored 11 tries in 28 Tests.

“It’s hard to criticise a rule that allowed me to play international rugby but you don’t really find it in any other sport,” he told TRP.

“But I don’t think it’s a bad thing that they’re looking at it. You look at France and the amount of foreign players that have been streaming in there, and you’d have to say that it’s probably not been great for the domestic competition.

“There has to be some sort of balance and it’ll be interesting to see what they do. For me, there has to be a real distinction between project players, players that are specifically brought over to play for a country in a certain position, and players that just qualified because they have been living there for a long time.

“When I signed for Edinburgh (in 2009), I needed a job and eventually I managed to qualify on residency grounds. Fundamentally, I think that’s a lot different to signing from abroad because a country needs a position filling.”

Visser swapped one capital club for another when he left Edinburgh to sign for Harlequins in 2015 and has scored 17 tries in 28 appearances since his move south.

“It’s been really good. It’s brought back my attacking focus. In the last couple of years at Edinburgh there was a lot of focus on defence.

“That kind of made me a better all-round player but I feel like I’ve gone back to where I used to be, playing exciting rugby and scoring tries. It is exciting to be a part of a team that plays the way we play.”

For Visser, though, Edinburgh will always be the place he calls home.

“I spent six great years at Edinburgh and my wife and I will always call it our home. It’s a great city and the plan is to move back there at some point after rugby.”

For now, Visser is determined to make up for a stop-start 2016. A knee injury ruled him out of Scotland’s summer tour to Japan and the game time he got during November fell short of expectations.

“I was delighted to start against Australia. I’d never played against them before and I felt like I came through pretty well. I nearly scored and I delivered in the areas I needed to deliver in.

“But I was gutted I didn’t get more game time against Argentina.”

A good performance against his former club in next weekend’s European Challenge Cup tie at the Stoop would serve as a timely reminder to the national selectors.

JON NEWCOMBE

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