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Players can now change their national allegiance under new World Rugby rules

World Rugby

International rugby players can now change their national allegiance, under new rules approved by World Rugby.

Under the old rules, each player could only play for one international team for their entire career. Even if an individual had only won a single cap for a country, they would not be allowed to switch to a different country later on in their career.

However, World Rugby have now approved changes to the national eligibility rules. If an individual hasn’t played for their former international team for three years, and if either they or their parents or grandparents were born in the country they now wish to represent, they can switch their allegiance, after approval from World Rugby’s Regulations Committee.

Pacific Island nations could benefit massively from the changes.

The likes of Fiji, Tonga and Samoa could benefit massively from the changes, as there are a number of current players who have represented other countries in the past who can now play for one of the Pacific Islands.

Tonga for example, could welcome former New Zealand international Charles Piutau, who last played for the All Blacks in 2015, and former Australia international Israel Folau would be eligible for the same country in 2022, pending World Rugby approval, as he last played for the Wallabies in 2019.

The changes have been widely supported by All Blacks with connections to one of the Pacific Islands, with Ardie Savea and Ngani Laumape both recently voicing their support for the changes.

There was a loophole in the eligibility rules before these changes, which stated that a player could change their national allegiance if they played rugby sevens for their new nation in either an Olympic qualifier or the Olympics themselves, following a stand down period of three years.

Former All Blacks centre Malakai Fekitoa and former Wallabies flanker Lopeti Timani both recently availed of the loophole, and they now look set to be joined by fellow former New Zealand and Australia internationals with Tonga.

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