Tonga have plenty to gain from World Rugby’s change in eligibility rules and could become a real force on the world stage next year.
World Rugby announced yesterday that players can now change their national allegiance, as long as they haven’t played international rugby in three years and if either themselves, their parents or their grandparents were born in the country they now wish to represent.
The changes look set to allow a whole host of players represent a second country – for example, CJ Stander could conceivably play for South Africa in 2024 if he comes out of retirement – but the Pacific Islands certainly have the most to gain.
Tonga have perhaps the most to gain, with a number of former All Blacks and Wallabies eligible to play for the small Pacific Island nation next year.
ʻIkale Tahi could soon welcome a host of former All Blacks and Wallabies.
Charles Piutau and Israel Folau are perhaps the two most high-profile players who could make the switch to Tonga next year.
Piutau won 17 caps for New Zealand, the last of which came in 2015, and still has plenty of years left to give at the age of 30. The talented utility back could have won more caps for the All Blacks, but his career with them ended when he decided to sign for Wasps in England six years ago.
Folau’s contract with Rugby Australia was torn up in May 2019 after he posted a number of messages on social media that were deemed to be homophobic, but he last played for the Wallabies in November 2018, so he would be eligible to play in all of Tonga’s tests next year.
The former Wallaby is a controversial figure, but Tonga head coach Toutai Kefu has said that he would welcome the 32-year-old should he decide to represent the country of his parents’ birth.
The World Rugby Council has approved an amendment to the regulation 8 that will now permit an international player to transfer once from one union to another subject to demonstrating a close and credible link to that union via birth right.https://t.co/cLrsGbFli5 pic.twitter.com/HtfrveDN5S
— World Rugby Media (@worldrugbymedia) November 24, 2021
Check out how Tonga could line up in 2022 below.
15. Charles Piutau (Ex-New Zealand)
14. Israel Folau (Ex-Australia)
13. Malakai Fekitoa (Ex-New Zealand)
12. George Moala (Ex-New Zealand)
11. Telusa Veainu
10. Kurt Morath
9. Augustine Pulu (Ex-New Zealand)
8. Sione Vailanu
7. Mateaki Kafatolu
6. Lopeti Timani (Ex-Australia)
5. Vaea Fifita (Ex-New Zealand)
4. Leva Fifita
3. Sekope Kepu (Ex-Australia)
2. Paul Ngauamo
1. Siegfried Fisiihoi