Slim chance for Steven Shingler as IRB backs Wales over player row

THE Scottish Rugby Union have been rebuffed for a second time in their claims on Welsh-born Steven Shingler but there remains a glimmer of hope that the controversial tug-of-war may yet be won.

The 20-year-old stand-off/ centre was born in Swansea but his mother is a Scot who grew up in – and whose family still live in – Langholm in the Borders.

Shingler’s elder brother Aaron, 24, made his full Wales debut against Scotland in this year’s RBS Six Nations Championship, but, after wearing the red jersey of Wales at under-20 level the younger Shingler told Scotland that he wanted to switch to the dark blue for his senior career.

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He was selected for Scotland’s RBS Six Nations Championship squad by head coach Andy Robinson, who believed that Shingler was not tied to Wales.

However, the Welsh Rugby Union immediately complained to the International Rugby Board who later ruled that Shingler could now only appear for Wales at international level.

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The SRU made a formal request to review Shingler’s concerns that he had not been made aware of this when he played for Wales at under-20 level. Their case included a lengthy document with witness reports.

The IRB convened an independent three-man Regulations Committee Panel which sat in Dublin last Monday, taking submissions from the player, his agent and the Scottish and Welsh unions.

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It delivered its verdict yesterday, upholding the original ruling that Shingler is now Welsh. But it’s not over yet. The situation arose because two other Welsh under-20 caps, James Loxton and Matthew Jarvis, later joined Connacht and switched allegiance to Ireland. That was permitted and those players share the same agent as Shingler, so he believed he could follow suit.

However, the difference was Shingler played in an under-20 game against France last April at a time when France had declared their U20 side to be their second team for eligibility purposes.

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All nations must register two senior teams, playing for which ties players to that country. Most name their full side and A team but Wales dispensed with their A squad in favour of the under-20s, as did France.

It was confirmed yesterday by the panel of Irish, New Zealand and Italian officials that, when two under-20 sides nominated to the IRB play against each other, all the players involved become tied to their respective nations.

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Wales complained about Loxton and Jarvis last year and the IRB set up a review to look at the issue of under-20 players being tied to nations. That only reached its conclusions last week and it declared that it was wrong, that under-20s should be allowed to still change allegiance after being capped at that level.

Both the Shingler decision and that under-20 ruling will go to the full IRB Council to be ratified on 15 May. And this is where Shingler still holds out some hope.

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While the ruling, if upheld by the council, cannot be implemented restrospectively, Shingler’s decision came after that review verdict, technically meaning that his case is not retrospective. Therefore, the IRB Council could decide that, as there was agreement that the under-20s should no longer be a nation’s second team before Shingler’s case was completed, he could be treated as a one-off and be permitted to switch to Scotland.

The IRB stated: “The Panel … recognised that the IRB Council will have made its determination on the recommendations of both Committees regarding the next senior national representative team review prior to its consideration of the Regulations Committee decision in the Shingler case. Council, in accordance with IRB Regulation 2, is able to endorse or overturn the decision of the Regulations Committee.”

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That remains a remote possibility, but a possibility that the 20-year-old – backed by the SRU – is clinging to.