Former All Black Charles Piutau may not be able to change his allegiance to Tonga, due to a scheduling clash between Bristol Bears and an Olympic Sevens Qualifier.
Piutau was born in Auckland, New Zealand to Tongan parents and won 17 caps for the All Blacks between 2013 and 2015.
The talented backline player’s international career ended when he signed with Wasps in the English Premiership, as only those playing their rugby in New Zealand are eligible for the All Blacks.
— PacificRugbyWelfare (@pacificwelfare) March 29, 2021
Piutau remained in Europe after leaving New Zealand in 2015, and has played with Ulster and Bristol since his stint with Wasps.
The 29-year-old has previously indicated that he would like to play for Tonga, after a loophole emerged which allowed players to switch their international allegiance.
To do so, players must partake in an Olympic rugby sevens qualifying event, provided they had not played for their previous country for at least three years.
Tim Nanai Williams and Cooper Vuna have both availed of this loophole created by the Olympics, with Williams switching to Samoa and Vuna to Tonga, with the two having represented New Zealand and Australia respectively.
Piutau was going to use the upcoming Olympic Sevens Qualifier in Monaco to switch his allegiance to Tonga, but his participation is now in doubt as the Gallagher Premiership semi-finals are due to take place on the same weekend.
‘Common sense should prevail.’
Former Samoan international Daniel Leo has called on World Rugby to allow Piutau to switch allegiances without competing in the Olympic qualifier, as Bristol will be reluctant to release their star player.
Difficult position for Bris. Common sense should prevail. A clash of dates whereby the livelihood a player is jeopardised, @WorldRugby should allow automatic eligibility for those genuinely expressing their desire to switch- if they’ve also met stand down duration as stipulated
— Daniel Leo (@danleo82) March 30, 2021
“Difficult position for Bristol. Common sense should prevail,” Leo wrote on Twitter.
“A clash of dates whereby the livelihood of a player is jeopardised, should allow automatic eligibility for those genuinely expressing their desire to switch – if they’ve also met the stand down duration as stipulated.”
Piutau would make a great addition to Tonga’s squad should he be allowed to represent the country of his parents, as he continues to be one of the best performing players in the Premiership.