World Rugby approves changes to laws allowing players to switch nationalities

Charles Piutau (right) will be able to play for Tonga in future
Charles Piutau (right) will be able to play for Tonga in future

World Rugby has decided to make a change to the international eligibility rules which will allow players from switching nationalities.

The rules that will come into effect from January next year will allow players can now represent a second nation which could be their birth country or have a parent or grandparent born in that country.

The player could make a switch only one time in his career and will be allowed only after a stand-down period of three years from international rugby.

The rule change was supported by 75% of the World Rugby council votes on Wedneday.

The move will benefit Pacific Island sides especially Fiji, Samoa and Tonga from where most players have gone on to represent other countries.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont believes the move will benefit the players and will make the game more competitive with the 2023 World Cup around the corner.

“Approval of this landmark regulatory change is the culmination of detailed and widespread modelling and consultation across the game.

“We have listened to our membership and players and sought to update the regulation recognising the modern professional rugby environment without compromising the integrity of the international game.

“Any player who wishes to transfer will need to have a close and credible link to their new union, namely birth right or parent or grandparent birth right while meeting strong criteria, including a 36-month stand down period.

“We believe that this is the fairest way to implement progressive change that puts players first while also having the potential to support a growing, increasingly competitive international men’s and women’s game.”

World Rugby vice-chairman Bernard Laporte added: “We have listened to our membership and honoured our pledge to undertake wide-ranging review of this important regulation.

“We have consulted, sought feedback from our unions, regions and most importantly to players’ representatives, before making a recommendation to the Council.

“This change to how international rugby operates will provide transformational opportunities to players with dual backgrounds, providing they meet the key criteria sets out in the Regulation 8.”

International Rugby Players CEO Omar Hassanein said:“The proposal to change the rules around player eligibility is something that we have worked on over many years with our member associations.

“Many players across the world will now benefit from the chance to represent the country of their or their ancestors’ birth, serving as a real boost to the competitiveness of emerging nations, which in turn, will benefit the game as a whole.”


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