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Eligibility rules change

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

FORMER New Zealand stars could take the field for other nations against the All Blacks because of a change in the IRB's eligibility rules, with a loophole in the new conditions allowing players such as Joe Rokocoko, Isaia Toeava and Soseni Anesi compete for their nations of birth in the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

With the inclusion of Sevens at the 2016 Olympics, rules state that a player can represent a nation as long as they hold that nation's passport. According to the IRB Handbook, Regulation 8, any player who has represented a national team but has a passport for a second nation,can switch teams during the 2014-2015 IRB Sevens World Series if there has been an 18-month period since their last national appearance.

According to IRB, a player must apply first to switch allegiances and must be approved before and then take the field for their new nation in next season's World Series, which doubles as Olympic qualification. Once a player has made his debut for a new team in an Olympic event they become eligible for selection for any form of the game in his new country.

For Rokocoko, the loophole could see him take the field for a third Rugby World Cup but for Fiji, a side that would surely be interested in the 68-Test star currently playing for Bayonne in the French Top 14 competition. Toeava, 28, could also change allegiance to Samoa, having played his last game for the All Blacks at the 2011 World Cup.

An unlikely scenario could also see Sonny Bill Williams leave the All Blacks and switch allegiance to Samoa, of which he holds a passport. Playing his last match for the All Blacks in August 2012, Williams could be eligible to make his debut for Samoa when the IRB Sevens World Series starts later this year. He could then represent Samoa at the 2015 World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Williams, however, has shown no signs of switching, having signed a two-year deal with New Zealand Rugby and the Chiefs Super Rugby franchise.

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