Wallaby turns Pom for Falcons

Matthew Burke, former rugby World Cup-winning Wallaby, is applying for British residency allowing his club side Newcastle to select other international players in the English Premiership.

    Changing allegiances: Former Wallaby Matt Burke

    Burke, who is risking wrath and ridicule from former Australian teammates and Wallabies supporters, is seeking residency through his British-born mother and has applied to the U.K. Home Office to change his status to boost the Falcons' selection options.


    English Premiership regulations allow only one foreign player in a side at any one time outside of autumn tours and Six Nations schedules.


    "I'm waiting for the flood of emails from Australia calling me a traitor," Burke said on Newcastle's official Web site.


    "I spoke about it with (then Newcastle coach) Rob Andrew last year, when he was still with the Falcons, and my feeling was that the club had been extremely good to me, so this is one small way in which I can repay them."


    33-year-old Burke was the fifth-highest scorer in rugby tests with 878 points when he retired, and kicked 25 points in Australia’s World Cup winning final over France in Cardiff, 1999.


    The backline player said the residency application had been made some time ago and would allow Newcastle to select himself and the likes of new All Black signing Joe McDonnell.


    "We explored the option, and with my mother Maureen being born in London my qualifying for British residency has helped the club out and meant they could go and recruit Joe, who will be a fantastic addition to the squad.


    "It means I become a local, donned in the flag of St George - or maybe not," joked the Falcons skipper.


    "I still know who I'll be supporting in the Ashes cricket, don't worry about that, but the wheels are in motion with the relevant authorities and I just see it as helping the club out. It doesn't mean I'll be a Pom, it's just paperwork."


    Burke, the fourth highest Wallaby try scorer in history, joined the Falcons in 2005 and was named the club's player of the year in his debut season.


    He is contracted to the club until 2008.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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