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THE MULTICULTURAL CUP

The 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan is almost upon us, with 20 teams from across the globe coming together to battle it out for the sport’s ultimate prize.

Rugby union is one of the most multicultural international sports, with many players choosing to play for countries other than that which they were born in, but which teams* in the 2019 Rugby World Cup boast the most players from other countries?

*Preliminary squads as of July 31st

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WORLD CUP NATIONALITIES

Looking at the latest announced squads by each team heading to the World Cup, we see that just over one in five players (22%) at the World Cup will have been born in a country other than the one that they’ll be representing.

While 20 nations will be competing at the tournament, there’ll be players from 30 different nations represented, including the likes of Germany, Cameroon, Algeria and Spain.

Some of the best-known foreign-born players expected to feature at the tournament include George North, who represents Wales, but was born in England and Billy Vunipola, who plays for England but was born in Australia and could have even played for Tonga, the birthplace of his parents.

NATIVE VS. FOREIGN BORN PLAYERS

618

Native Players

78%

788

Total Players Overall

Pie chart

170

Foreign-Born Players

22%

NUMBER of Nationalities

1 New Zealand - 91 players
2 South Africa - 62 players
3 England - 54 players
4 Argentina - 48 players
5 Namibia - 46 players
6 Fiji - 45 players
7 Georgia - 42 players
8 Ireland - 40 players
9 Russia - 37 players
10 Australia - 36 players
11 Uruguay - 34 players
12 Italy - 33 players
13 France - 32 players
14 United States - 32 players
15 Wales - 31 players
16 Canada - 28 players
17 Tonga - 27 players
18 Scotland - 23 players
19 Japan - 17 players
20 Samoa - 16 players
21 American Samoa - 2 players
22 Hong Kong - 2 players
23 New Caledonia - 2 players
24 Zimbabwe - 2 players
25 Algeria - 1 player
26 Cameroon - 1 player
27 Germany - 1 player
28 Guinea - 1 player
29 Papua New Guinea - 1 player
30 Spain - 1 player

TEAMS

While 17 out of the 20 teams look set to feature foreign-born players, none boast as many as Samoa, with more than half (61%) of their players being born outside of the country, which makes sense when you consider the islands are home to less than 200,000 people!

Samoa’s fellow Pacific island nation of Tonga is also largely made up of foreign-born players, with an almost 50-50 split.

In terms of who has the most diverse squad, there are nine nationalities represented in the squads of both the USA and Italy, which feature players such as Sergio Parisse (born in Argentina but is Italy’s most capped player) and Ian McKinley (born in Dublin but qualifies for Italy having played club rugby there for over three years).

At the other end of the scale, it’s the South American and Eastern European nations which have the least foreign-born players, with Argentina, Russia and Uruguay having none and Georgia having just one foreign-born player in their squad.

THE MOST DIVERSE SQUADS - MAP

THE MOST DIVERSE SQUADS - RANKED

KEY
  • Rank

  • Team

  • Total Players

  • No. of Nationalities

  • Native Players

  • Native Players Percentage

  • Foreign-Born Players

  • Foreign-Born Players Percentage

Which Nations Have Produced the Most Players?

In terms of which nations have produced the most players who could be playing at the tournament, the clear winners are New Zealand.

As well as the 34 homegrown players who are in their own squad, there are also a further 57 Kiwi players who could be heading onto the field with other teams during the tournament.

This includes about half of the Tonga squad, as well as the likes of Gareth Anscombe of Wales and Mako Vunipola of England.

NATIVE PLAYERS STATS

KEY
  • Rank

  • Team

  • Native Players in Own Squad

  • Native Players in Other Squads

THE RULES

While the majority of other sports such as football and cricket require a player to hold nationality in the country they represent, this isn’t the case in rugby, which is why we see such diverse national squads.

World Rugby’s eligibility rules simply state that a player can play for a country that either:

They were born in.
They have a parent or grandparent.
They have lived in for over three years (although this is set to be extended to five years from 2021).

However, certain countries do impose their own eligibility rules on top of this. For example, France requires players to hold French nationality, while Australian players based overseas have to have already played seven seasons in Australia and 60 games for the national team to be eligible.

The rules have often caused controversy, with Romania initially qualifying for the World Cup, before being disqualified for fielding ineligible players.

SOURCES

Squad lists and the majority of nationality data was sourced from Wikipedia.

For the full list of data and other sources used, click here.

The most recently available squads as of July 31st were used, which were as follows:

Argentina - 46-man training squad
Australia - 34-man Rugby Championship squad
Canada - 31-man training squad
England - 38-man training squad
Fiji - 42-man Pacific Nations Cup squad
France - 37-man training squad
Georgia - 43-man training squad
Ireland - 44-man training squad
Italy - 44-man training squad
Japan - 31-man Pacific Nations Cup squad
Namibia - 50-man training squad
New Zealand - 39-man Rugby Championship squad
Russia - 36-man Rugby Europe Championship squad
Samoa - 33-man Pacific Nations Cup squad
Scotland - 42-man training squad
South Africa - 39-man Rugby Championship squad
Tonga - 31-man Pacific Nations Cup squad
United States - 50-man training squad
Uruguay - 43-man training squad
Wales - 42-man training squad