Momentum is beginning to grow towards a change in the World Rugby eligibility rules when it comes to representing international sides.
Currently, a player may represent another international union if he fulfils the following criteria:
- He must not have played for the first international side for three years;
- He must have a passport for the second country;
- The first game he plays for the second country must be in an Olympic event (which includes Olympic qualifying tournaments and the 2018/2019 Sevens World Series).
However, some players who want to represent the country of their birth or for where they have a passport may not be eligible for a variety of reasons due to them no fulfilling the above criteria, especially if their country have a lack of sevens tournaments to participate it – Tonga, for example, are not on the World Series circuit which got underway in Dubai last week.
Rugby League introduced a rule whereby capped players could return to Tier-2 nations and a similar rule is being mooted for the 15-man code.
According to the Mail on Sunday, Ma’a Nonu and Victor Vito would make themselves available to Samoa under these new proposals, as would Charles Piutau and Frank Halai.
“If there’s a way to do it, I want to give something back and play for Tonga at the 2019 World Cup,’ Piutau told the Mail on Sunday.
“I have told the Tongan coach I would be on board if there’s a way to do it.
“If our sport followed the rugby league model, it would be a massive boost for the Pacific Islands and it would make the world stage competitive again.
“There’s a lot of wasted talent. The rugby league boys put Tonga back on the map and union should do the same thing.”
Former junior All Black Nick Williams is also open to the idea.
“I would love to go back and play for my motherland, Samoa.
“There are a couple of hundred Polynesians who would jump at the chance.
“I played for the junior All Blacks over a decade ago and that’s tied me down. I would love the rules to change.
“Do people want a two-horse race between England and the All Blacks or do they want to see five or six teams competing? The big dogs need some competition.”
This is certainly a topic which looks to gather momentum over the coming 12 months.