HARARE – Zimbabwe rugby star Brandon Mandivenga has described the United Kingdom’s sports immigration laws as a “damn shame” following young Kenyan Josh Weru’s departure from English top-flight club Northampton Saints because his visa is not sport-related.

The 19-year-old back-row signed his first professional contract with the Premiership club in August, but it has emerged that since he arrived in the UK on student visa, he is unable play professionally in the league.

Weru was recently a student at Loughborough University, but left his degree. To play rugby professionally in the UK, a player from third-tier nations like Kenya needs to be capped at least 10 times by his country.

This has drawn criticism from Zimbabwean Mandivenga, who also studied at Loughborough. Mandivenga revealed he could not represent the university’s main team, the “national 1 team”, during his student days, due to visa issues.

“UK sport immigration laws strike again! It’s a damn shame how they operate,” commented Mandivenga in reaction to Northampton’s Tweet announcing Weru’s departure.

Mandivenga, who turns out for CUS Genova in Italy, said the laws are much relaxed over there.

“I studied and played there for three years but couldn’t progress due to visa requirements,” he wrote.

“My point is that it’s far more difficult for foreigners to make it there. Here in Italy, I did not even need national caps to obtain a sports visa and same goes for France.”

The 27-year-old utility back added: “I had the same issue as I was not able to play for the national team at Loughborough on a student visa. I was required to get 10 caps and that was not possible at the time. Laws are not kind to tier 2/3 countries for sport.”

After being released by Northampton, Weru has turned to international rugby with Kenya, featuring in the 68-14 defeat to the United States in a World Cup Repachage tournament this week.


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