All Blacks get Island opportunity
Thu, 31 Jul 2014 09:17
Many different options for the New Zealand and Pacific Islanders
The IRB's player eligibility rules amendment could see a number of foreign national players switch their allegiances back to their home nations.
There has been a loophole worked into section eight of the rules thanks to the inclusion of Sevens at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
According to the IRB Handbook, Regulation eight, any player that has represented a national team, but has a passport for a second country, can switch allegiance during the 2014-15 IRB Sevens World Series if there has been an 18-month period since their last national team appearance.
This opens up many different options for the New Zealand and Pacific Islanders especially.
One man who could theoretically switch allegiance is cross-code superstar Sonny Bill Williams, if he chose to represent Samoa instead of New Zealand.
Frank Halai, Isaia Toeava and Joe Rokocoko could also switch allegiance to Tonga, Samoa or Fiji respectively, if they chose to represent the nation of their birth.
To become eligible for a second country, the player must apply to switch allegiance, and then turn out for his new country during next season's World Sevens Series, which doubles as Olympic qualification.
Once a player has made his Sevens debut for a new national team in an Olympic event, like the 2014-15 World Series, IRB rules state that the player can then play any form of the game for his new country.
As exciting as it might be, Williams probably won't be changing allegiance, having signed a two-year deal with New Zealand Rugby and the Chiefs Super Rugby franchise.
Likewise, Frank Halai will have too much to lose should he decide on switching allegiance, with his chances of playing for New Zealand at the 2015 World Cup and Rio Olympics still high.
However, players like Isaia Toeava, Joe Rokocoko or Sitiveni Sivivatu could make the switch with no future in the All Blacks or with the New Zealand Sevens team.
Toeava, 28, would be an interesting prospect for Samoa, having played his last game for the All Blacks at the 2011 World Cup.
Rokocoko is only 31 and playing well in France, and Fiji would surely be interested in someone of his ability and experience.
Other players who could theoretically switch nations are one-cap All Black and 2006 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Soseni Anesi (Samoa), three-test All Black Benson Stanley (Australia) and 14-test England international Riki Flutey could switch allegiance back to New Zealand.
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