Tuitavake seeks Tonga switch

Tuitavake has been talking to other Tongan players in the Top 14. Photo: Skysports

Tuitavake has been talking to other Tongan players in the Top 14. Photo: Skysports

Former All Black Anthony Tuitavake has revealed that he has already spoken with a number of other players in France about the new IRB loophole which could allow players to switch nationalities despite having already featured at Test level.

The introduction of rugby sevens as an Olympic sport has seen a change to the IRB regulations on qualifying criteria, and it could allow international players to switch countries provided they have not featured at Test level for the last 18 months, and hold a passport for their ‘new’ country.

They would then have to feature internationally in an Olympic Sevens event, which includes the IRB Sevens World Series, the official qualifying tournament.

After the 2016 Rio Olympics that stand-down period will be extended to three years, but for Tuitavake, who holds a Tongan passport through his parents, this represents a great opportunity to feature in next year’s World Cup.

“From a personal point of view I would have actually preferred that this happen sooner. I was born in New Zealand and I dreamed of becoming an All Black,” he told Rugbyrama.

“I achieved that dream but unfortunately now it’s behind me. However the chance to take part in a World Cup and take on the best teams in the world is now a possibility.

“We’re talking about it between the expatriates, with Sitaleki Timani and Lifemi Mafi at Perpignan.

“It would be an opportunity to honour my family, my ancestors, to share our experience and help our country of origin to grow. It’s about giving something back after everything we have gained from rugby.”

Tuitavake earned six caps for New Zealand back in 2008, while Montpellier teammate Timani featured 18 times for Australia. Mafi meanwhile tied himself to New Zealand by playing for their Sevens side back in 2005.

It remains to be seen how many other players will look to exploit this opportunity, with George Smith, Sitiveni Sivivatu and Isaia Toeava among those who could conceivably switch allegiances, however Tuitavake admits there are still a few obstacles to overcome, including negotiating with his club to take part in one of the IRB Sevens World Series events.

“It’s still a little early to start looking too far ahead, but if it happens we will have to look into that,” he added.

“But my first priority is with Montpellier, my employer, and I want to win the Top 14. After that we’ll see.”

  • Planet Rugby

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Filed under All Blacks, Focus on rwc, French Club, Olympics, Pacific Islanders, Rio de Janeiro, Switch Allegiance, Tonga, Wallabies, William Webb-Ellis Cup

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