By Alex LoweWHEN ENGLAND walk out to play South Africa at Twickenham on November 24, each player will be accompanied by a mascot from his formative club.It is a thoughful touch, the latest idea from Stuart Lancaster to remind his squad who they represent each time they pull on an England jersey. It is part of a noble and effective plan to reconnect the national team with their public.Unfortunately, my first question to the Rugby Football Union was: “So, are you paying for Thomas Waldrom to fly a kid over from Lower Hutt, New Zealand?”Maybe I am just too cynical but the idea simply highlighted to me the number of players who had to nominate a junior English club because they do not have one.Waldrom, Mouritz Botha, Brad Barritt and David Paice are clear-cut examples of players who played their formative rugby abroad before qualifying for England…or discovering a grandmother.None of this is black and white. Dylan Hartley, Manu Tuilagi, Alex Corbisiero and Mako Vunipola were all born overseas but all have played junior rugby in England. This is the modern rugby world.England are selecting players who are available to them under the regulations. In fact they always have done: from the Russian Prince Obolensky to the dual international Jamie Salmon; from the Tongan volcano Lesley Vainikolo to the Afrikaner Hendre Fourie.What really concerns me are the countries who are actively exploiting the rules; the likes of Scotland who have an open policy to recruit “project signings” with the aim of qualifying them on residency grounds. Edinburgh’s South African prop WP Nel was the first.“For Scotland to compete in years to come, we have to do this,” said Edinburgh chairman Jim Calder.This is an unacceptable situation which damages the integrity of Test rugby but the International Rugby Board seemed to be entirely unconcerned about it when I asked them.No one will convince me it is good for Test rugby to see two South African cousins – Richardt and Adriaan Strauss – playing against each other in Ireland’s Test against the Springboks. MAASTRICHT, NETHERLANDS – SEPTEMBER 23: Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain lines up at the start of the Men’s Elite Road Race on day eight of the UCI Road World Championships on September 23, 2012 in Maastricht, Netherlands. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images) LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Very down to earth, Wiggo, and by the way, get well soon!Follow Alex Lowe on Twitter @AlexMLowe Granny gate: should Thomas Waldrom be allowed to wear the Red Rose? The England and Wales Cricket Board recently increased their residency qualification period to seven years. The IRB should follow suit with something similar.Unfortunately, they will not because it would require the support of those countries who are benefitting from the current situation. These unions should be focusing on developing the next generation, not hiring them as international mercenaries and opportunists.My proposal? A player is captured for one country when he or she has played at Under-20 level; residency qualification should be increased to at least five years, or maybe even seven; players should be able to qualify for a country through their parents only.****One of the boys: Bradley WigginsAnother of Stuart Lancaster’s motivational techniques has been to invite guest speakers to address the England squad with messages of inspiration and tales of their own heroic sporting deeds.During the Six Nations, it was Gary Neville and Kevin Sinfield. Before the autumn Internationals it was Bradley Wiggins, the Tour de France winner and Olympic road race champion.Wiggins connected immediately with the England squad. They liked the fact he enjoyed a few pints when he was not in training and hung on his every word.“He is a very inspiring individual,” said Tom Johnson. “I took away from it how dedicated he was and exactly what it will take for us to get to the next level. He is a very down to earth man.”But we all know how merciless a rugby crowd can be.“Unfortunately, the talk got cut short because he had a helicopter waiting,” Johnson revealed. “He was very embarrassed about that and the boys gave him a lot of gip!”
One of the more notable events taking place on Tuesday evening will be hosted at St John’s College.The “US Election 2016 Watch Party” has been organised by the Oxford American Society, Democrats Abroad Oxford and Republicans Overseas Oxford.In response to why the elections should be given attention here in Oxford, President of the Oxford American Society Trevelyan Wing said, “Every US presidential election is a spectacle, and this one is no exception—not least because we Americans could be electing our first female president. That said, the prevailing atmosphere in the States is very unlike 2008 which produced our first African-American president.“The result has the potential to produce a sea change in American approaches to NATO, conflicts in the Middle East, global trade treaties and the environment. Whatever the outcome, the UK will be affected.“It can be both exhilarating and difficult being abroad during moments like these, and so we wanted to provide a supportive and fun space for American students at the University to gather and await the results together”, Wing said.While many colleges are hosting their own events, there are university-wide clubs and societies opening their doors to students.The Oxford Union is hosting an “Election Night Social”, where there will be “beers, popcorn, hot dogs and more”.Similarly to University College, there will also be “expert analysis” as the night unfolds. Lola Lo will also be holding a “Rumble Election Results Night” with beer pong and free pizza.The voting in the US election stretches over six time zones. The last poll to close will be on the West Coast, at around 3am in the UK. It may be clear whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump have secured the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the Presidency by 4am UK time on November 9.Oxford has already played a role in the US election process. On March 1, known as “Super Tuesday”, the Oxford Rothermere American Institute hosted a polling station to allow expats to vote in the US primaries, as well as providing analysis of the results. In anticipation of the US elections on the November 8, a number of JCR’s have passed motions to hold presidential election parties.Somerville JCR, for instance, has passed a motion for a “presidential election party”.However, the motion has divided opinion within the JCR due to possible noise disruption and welfare issues associated with the event.While the motion passed, with 24 JCR members in favour of the event, 13 abstentions and 10 individuals opposed, the event has been described as a “massive welfare issue” due to the divisive nature of the presidential campaign.Alex Crichton-Miller, president of the Somerville JCR, said, “The chance of a potentially distressing and divisive outcome might prove problematic if the JCR was found to be hosting the event. Enquiries into the workability of the event have been made to the Dean.”New College have decided to use £150 of JCR funds to fund an election night event.JCR President Will Kocur commented, “I have no objections to the passing of a motion to provide food and drink at a JCR gathering to watch the election coverage.“This was £150—the same amount spent on food and drink during the Super Bowl. I don’t think this motion really reflects JCR opinions…about engagement in US politics”.Meanwhile, University College students will be joined by the Master of the College, Sir Ivor Crewe, who will be there to give his own insights into the results as they unfold.Stella Kremer, University College’s JCR president, added, “We expect the event to be popular given the success of similar events we have held for the 2015 UK General Election and the EU Referendum.” Pembroke’s JCR will also be hosting an election night, describing it as a “a nail-biting culmination of months of fierce competition.” They have set aside a budget of £200 for the event.