Rodney Ah You arrived in Belfast as a hefty member of the baby All Blacks in 2007 and duly went home with the Junior World Cup. Six years on from playing in Ireland, the New Zealander from Christchurch is about to become eligible to play for Ireland. From next month, the Connacht prop with the distinctive surname will be free to join the ever-expanding band of nomadic Kiwis to pursue alternative international careers.
Ah You will be by no means the first to change colour, in his case from black to green. Nor will he be the first member of the all-conquering New Zealand U19 team of 2007 to declare for another country.
Sean Maitland has already beaten him to it. Glasgow’s wing went from black to blue in next to no time and made enough of an impression with Scotland to win immediate promotion to the Lions.
Like many before him, Maitland made the jump on the strength of a Scottish grandparent or, in his case, a Scottish parent. Ah You, like many before him, has had to take the longer residential route of three years.
He will have served his time by next month, having joined Connacht in October 2010 as a replacement for Robbie Morris, the former England tighthead who had been forced into premature retirement by a chronic neck problem. At 25, Rodney O’You is younger than most and although a specialist loosehead, he can operate on either side of the scrum.
Compared to another front row Kiwi convert, Ah You has had to wait almost a lifetime. Ireland’s capping of Michael Bent from Taranaki was done in a haste which bordered on the indecent, rushing him almost straight from the arrivals’ hall at Dublin airport last November into the national team of his ancestral home.
Soon Ireland will be babbling about the sort of accents not usually heard around public houses in places like Skibereen. Not content at having capped one South African hooker, Richardt Strauss, they now have another in the pipeline, Rob Herring.
A native of Cape Town, he signed for Ulster last year already qualified through ancestry and last summer he played for Emerging Ireland. Jared Payne, Ulster’s full- back from Auckland, will qualify for Ireland on residence next year.
Wales and Scotland also have southern hemisphere players in the course of conversion. Jake Ball, an Anglo-Australian lock who joined the Scarlets from the Perth-based Western Force last year, was born in England but qualifies for Wales because his father was born in Colwyn Bay.
Hanno Dirksen, the Ospreys wing whose flying progress has been grounded by a long-term knee injury, will be eligible for Wales by the end of the year. If he wins a cap, he will be the third member of the family to do so for different countries.
His father, Cornelius Wilhelmus ‘Corra’ Dirksen, was a Springbok wing during the Sixties. Hanno’s brother, Cornelius, Jnr, made his debut last year for the USA.
Hanno, born in Klugersdorp and brought up in Nashville, went to college in Cornwall before relocating in Wales and signing for the Ospreys. Another wing from southern Africa, the Namibian Byron McGuigan, late of the Border Bulls, now of Glasgow Warriors, has a Glaswegian mother which means Scotland can pick him any time they like, as their Sevens team has done with some success.
What began as a trickle, has become a steady stream. Andries Pretorious, from Nelspruit in South Africa, won his Wales cap three months ago in Japan. England, of course, have had a raft of South Africans with Brad Barritt the most recent.
Not surprisingly, the inter-hemisphere movement has provoked calls for the IRB to review its eligibility laws. Keith Wood, the former Ireland captain, argues that the residential qualification ought to be lengthened to five years, maybe longer.
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