Ex-All Blacks and Wallabies to play for Pacific Islands at World Cup

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Several ex-New Zealand and Australia internationals have confirmed that they will lodge an application to switch allegiances to a Pacific Island nation with whom they hold a passport, with a view to participating at the Rugby World Cup in England next year.

With the inclusion of rugby 7s at the Olympics in 2016, there has been a change in eligibility laws that will see players who have represented one nation now eligible to play for another, if they hold a passport from that country.

If they have not played international rugby in the past 18 months, they will be eligible for their new country in the Sevens World Series or designated Regional Olympic Qualification Tournaments and would thus be able to play for that country in all forms of rugby.

Amongst those that have already expressed a desire to switch nationalities are former All Blacks Anthony Tuitavake and Sam Tuitupou, and ex-Wallabies Mark Gerrard and Sitaleki Timani, who will apply to play for Tonga under IRB Regulation 8.

All Blacks sevens representatives Alando Soakai, Lifeimi Mafi and Roy Kinikinilau have also confirmed they will switch allegiance to Tonga, while Tim Nanai-Williams will make the switch to Samoa.

Other big name players that would be eligible to make the switch include All Black wingers Joe Rokocoko and Sitiveni Sivivatu, both of whom could play for Fiji, and Casey Laulala, Chris Masoe and Lelia Masaga, who are eligible for Samoa.

Former Wallaby great George Smith, meanwhile, would be eligible for Tonga, and Chairman of Tonga Rugby Epi Taione has said the new laws have led him to draw up a ‘hit list’ of players he wants to play for Tonga, which includes Smith along with Waikato Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna.

“So far it’s been very positive from every single player so we’re quite chuffed about the response we’ve had so far,” Taione told tvnz.co.nz. “It’s the biggest positive news in my time as a player and now as an administrator for Tonga.”

“We have been close but rugby is moving and we have to be on our toes and change with the times. These guys being available for us is huge news for Tongan rugby.”

This eligibility loophole is the same one that was in the news recently with the report that Steffon Armitage could make a sensational switch to France in time for the World Cup, should he gain citizenship and have the opportunity to play in a sevens tournament in time.

Is it fair that players should be allowed to switch allegiances between countries? Vote in our poll below and leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Should capped players be allowed to represent a new country under the eligibility loophole?

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By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

13 thoughts on “Ex-All Blacks and Wallabies to play for Pacific Islands at World Cup

  1. This is a terrible idea. Most of these players are over 30 and just looking for a swansong as they only got a handful of caps (with the obivous expections of Rokocoko, Sivivatu and Smith) for their countries.

    In no way whats so ever will this help to bring on countires like Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, having just spent time in Fiji, there problem is the lack of structure and development of young players. I can’t see how recuriting a load of older players will do anything for them. I could understand with a country where Rugby is played but not as popular and they need to boost the standard of the national team to gain people’s interest. But the Pacific Islands are mad for Rugby, they live and breathe it. And don’t get me wrong they’d love to see these superstars play for their country, but in the long term it isn’t going to help their development.

  2. I don’t think it should be allowed. I would be fuming if I was an island player who lost out on a WC squad place to someone who already made their choice.

  3. The new rules makes for quite interesting reading! What is clear though in order to represent your new 15 a side team you must play in either the qualifying event (so the 2014/15 series or regional qualifying event) or the Olympics beforehand – see regulation 8.7.2. That seems to indicate that a mass flurry of people changing each year shouldn’t happen in theory, just periodically. Futhermore after Rio the stand down period will be 3 years, not 18 months, which is essentially making a change every qualification/olympic year. What is interesting is that you will still have to apply to the IRB who will take into account the ‘spirit’ of regulation 8 (in particluar 8.6-8.16) when considering an application – which essentially means that there will be a load of appeals for CAS to deal with

    Therefore for player that is tied to a nation due to u20 duty/playing for the second nomiated country (i.e the Saxons v Wolfhounds) and wanted to switch to a home nation they would need a British passport, not played for their nominated country for 18 months (3 years post Rio), make an application to play for their new country in one of the world series events, play in a series game, then they would be eligible to play for the 15’s side. With that said it’s not exactly a free for all!

  4. At the risk of putting the counter argument, I think that this is a good idea. This could help stop the drain of rugby talent from the Pacific islands. We have long moaned about, particularly the ABs capping players at a young age and handcuffing them to NZ. This will help reverse that trend. It’s not perfect I grant you, but it is a step in the right direction.

  5. As someone else has said above, it’s not exactly a free for all. So long as the IRB are sensible about applying the spirit of the regulations, I think it is a hugely positive move. For example, someone like George Smith should not be switching over, he’s got too many caps over a sustained period of time to switch now. I think this is best used for the players who won <10 caps when, as someone said above, NZ/Aus were trying to handcuff them to their team in case they became superstars later. I don't think it would harm the Pacific Island teams in the long run because it should improve the standard of the top team. For years rugby fans have been debating how good Samoa/Tonga/etc. would be if they could pick all the players currently playing for NZ/Aus/Eng/etc., now we get more of a chance to see the reality of this. I imagine it would be a huge boost to the rugby in, say, Samoa if they were to get to the semi-finals at the world cup, like Argentina a few years back.

  6. Staggy

    This is a perception. It’s old hat & inaccurate. Who are these players in ‘the drain of rugby talent from the Pacific islands’? You never name any!

    This is doubly bunkem when e.g. 140 non English born players have repped England. This is according to the S Times & which I raised recently. And this is not to mention the Scottish ‘kilted Kiwis’ or the Welsh with e.g. Shane (‘My granny was born in Wales’.) Howarth, from prev yrs.

    It’s living in a glasshouse stuff. For the sake of accuracy you need to get yr own house in order b4 making subjective statements like this.

    Whether ‘player drain’ should to be allowed is a question, but I suggest that you write to the IRB & complain about ALL counties engaging in this activity instead of inappropriately blaming the SH (NZ).

  7. ….. And in other news many PI qualified players will be representing NZ and Aus at the world cup (and yes a couple for England too!)

    As Fuimaono-Sapolu has pointed out a lot of the best paid PI rugby players are those that play club rugby in Europe and represent their island so hopefully this will encourage more to take that route in the future.

  8. Matt

    Like who? Come on, like Staggy, put yr wotsit on the block & name the ‘many PI qualified players’ in the current NZ team. You know you can & want to do it.

    Or are you just making excuses for England’s inadequacy?

    Same ol’, same ol’ needle merchant.

    Borrring!

    1. Don, when you post an opinion that I think it factually incorrect I’ve posted the facts to correct you ….. and been insulted for the use of facts and then you’ve continued to argue that the facts don’t matter because you call it a statistic and that your opinion is right anyway.

      So you can have a go now, if you think we are incorrect then list the players that are only eligible to play for NZ (on the grandparent rule), my opinion is a fairly high percentage are dual+ eligible but have chosen NZ. I have no problem with that, but just find it amusing when people chuck their toys out the pram whenever it’s stated.

      PS If you correct me I won’t insult you for doing so, I will thank you for educating me on the facts and I will not state the opinion again!

  9. Matt

    Is that a fact?

    I find what you state is unclear? What particular ‘facts’ are you on about?

    This has already been dealt with but, regds NZ eligible players, I’ve heard this stuff 4 yrs & yet no one ever names the ‘handcuffed hordes of PI players whom the dastardly ABs have nobbled. As no rules are being broken it’s an irrelevancy anyway, but when actually drilled down, the current AB team has mainly Pakeha starters.

    In the pack, Liam Messam or Jerome Kaino. In the backs; Arron Smith, Julian Savea & Ma’a Nonu. So what’s the real issue here? I sometimes wonder whether it’s racial.

    In answer to yr query tho, I recently looked up (& blogged the result. Can’t be arsed doing so again. You can tho if u like) the non NZ born starters & altho I can’t recall the exact answer now (Kaino I think), it’s miniscule… & as aforesaid, irrelevant.

    The real ? is why you (& others) keep on bringing racial origins up tho. To me it’s a way of having a go, or to be blunt, sour grapes, to make up for yr country’s inadequacy. If teams played better rugger instead of having their fans’ harping on about side issues it might better serve them/you.

    As for; ‘chuck their toys out the pram’, this just seems common fare to denigrate when someone has an alt, objective take on a subject. I attempt to predicate mine, but slag away with yr red herring, maybe it makes you feel better?

    1. No, I have no prejudice against anyone based on where they come from. I have no issue with England picking many players who are dual qualified (I only have an issue when we pick crap imports ‘coz they must be good they played in NZ’). I just find it hilarious that a minority of kiwis get their knickers in a twist when anyone suggests that a lot of their players are dual (or more) qualified because they also have PI heritage.

      If you want to prove me wrong then list the players that are only NZ qualified ….. or go on another rant ….

      But I’ll take my lesson from George Carlin and move on!

  10. Matt (Thesaurus = dull, lacklustre, uninteresting, tedious, boring, monotonous, dreary, unexciting, mind-numbing, lifeless etc, etc. They know you then. Got you down to a T!)

  11. Oh, nearly forgot… to the best of my knowledge, George Carlin didn’t play rugger.
    Oh forgot… And to the best of my knowledge, George Carlin didn’t play rugger.

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