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Scotland needs global family

Thursday, November 09, 2017

LONDON - Luke Hamilton faced a very awkward conversation with Wales rugbyselectors in 2011.

The Welsh-born backrower called up for Scotland ahead of this month's internationals was told that if selected for Wales Under-20s to play against France he would forever be tied to the country of his birth.

It was a so-called "capture" match - rules soon to be changed by the sport's governing body - that would have annulled any claim to qualify for Scotland through his Scottish father.

Luckily for Scotland, although it may not have felt that way for Hamilton at the time, it was a conversation the 19-year old never had to have. Despite being involved in every other match of that Under-20s Six Nations campaign, he did not feature against France.

His Welsh team mate Steven Shingler, who has a Scottish mother, did play in the game and was later barred by World Rugby from representing Scotland when he was called into their full international squad the following year.

Hamilton's road to Scottish rugby has had many twists, but as Scotland continues to increase efforts to unearth foreign talent, it is not that unusual.

He is one of 20 foreign-born players in Scotland's 38-man squad for this month's games against Samoa, New Zealand and Australia.

There could be even more in the future.

Last month, Scottish Rugby launched a Scottish Qualified Programme which comprises 10 international scouts based in places ranging from England to Japan. Six of them are directly employed by the union.

This strategy, coupled with big investment into its academy system and plans to launch a semi-professional domestic league, should help Scotland secure their place among the world's best.

The country climbed to its highest ever world ranking of fifth this year — they currently lie sixth — and their Under-20s recorded their highest finish, also fifth, in the Junior World Championship.

There is arguably more onus on Scotland to keep tabs on their talent abroad than on any other leading rugby nation.

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