A number of former All Blacks have confirmed that they intend to make themselves available for other countries at next year’s World Cup.
A loophole in the IRB’s Olympic Sevens qualifying regulations which allows capped players the opportunity to swap countries could open the way for the likes of ex-All Blacks Anthony Tuitavake, Sam Tuitupou and ex-Wallabies Mark Gerrard and Sitaleki Timani to represent the Pacific Island nations for which they hold passports.
In 2013, the IRB created an exemption to Regulation 8 governing eligibility for the Rio Olympics. It applies with a stand down period of 18 months for Rio, thereafter it will be three years.
It essentially means that any player that has not played Test rugby for three years and qualifiers for the another country via his passport can compete at the Rio Games provided he has played at an Olympic qualifying event – such as a round of the IRB World Series Sevens – in the interim.
Any player making the switch would then be tied to the ‘new’ country ahead of the 2015 World Cup.
Samoan passport holders Isaia Toeava, Lelia Masaga and Rudi Wulf could all feasibly switch.
Likewise, Tuitupou and for Tonga while Joe Rokocoko and Sitiveni Sivivatu could qualify for Fiji.
According to ONE News in New Zealand Tuitavake, Tuitupou, Gerrard and Timani will lodge an application to play for Tonga.
Former All Blacks Sevens representatives Alando Soakai, Lifeimi Mafi and Roy Kinikinilau are also keen to switch while Nanai-Williams has confirmed he hopes to feature for Samoa.
Tonga Rugby Union chairman Epi Taione says ex-Wallaby George Smith, whose mother is Tongan and Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna are also targets.
“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 ONE News.
Montpellier centre Tuitavake said many former internationals were considering switching.
“Since hearing about this loophole that the IRB has made, us ex-New Zealand players that are playing abroad are very keen to switch,” he said.
• Planet Rugby