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10 England players who could switch allegiance ahead of RWC2023

By Ian Cameron
Matt Kvesic (LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP via Getty Images)

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World Rugby’s rule changes around international eligibility have certainly provided plenty of fodder for theoretical articles on who could switch allegiances, who they could play for and when.

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Per the new rules, a three-step criteria will be applied for a player to change who he represents internationally.

The switching player must stand down from Test rugby for 36 months; the player must either be born in the country to which they wish to transfer or have a parent or grandparent born in that country; and a player may only change their union once.

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Each case will also be subject to approval by the World Rugby regulations committee to preserve the integrity.

Here we take a look at ten England players that could make the switch, either immediately or in the year ahead.

ZACH MERCER
The Montpellier backrow played for Scotland at U16 and U18s age-grades through residency, and hasn’t played for England since 2018. Mercer still has designs on the white jersey and adding to his two caps to date, but his move to French club rugby has effectively ended his chances of selection in the short term. Mercer could theoretically, switch to Scotland at Test level under the new rules.

MATT KVESIC
29-year-old Kvesic was born in Iserlohn, Germany and earned four caps for England, the last of which came in September 2019 and as a result could theoretically switch to Germany later this year.

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CHARLIE SHARPLES
The super fast Sharples won four caps for England, the last coming way back in 2012. Having been born in Hong Kong in 1989, the 32-year-old could technically switch to the Asian side immediately, should World Rugby green light it.

NATHAN HUGHES
The Bristol No.8 last played for England in 2018 and could make the switch to Fiji immediately having been born on the island. Fiji have significant depth in their back row, so whether Vern Cotter reckons the 30-year-old is worth a look at is another matter.

SEMESA ROKODUGUNI
The Bath winger hasn’t featured for England since 2017 and at 34 it’s unlikely he’ll ever add to his four caps. Fiji have even more depth in on the wings than in their backrow, so it’s unlikely that such a switch would happen.

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DON ARMAND
A few years ago Armand’s lack of involvement in the England squad was a cause célèbre in rugby circles. The Exeter Chiefs flanker would eventually win two caps under Eddie Jones, the last coming in 2018. He was born in Harare and could feature for Zimbabwe, although they have not qualified for the Rugby World Cup in France.

DENNY SOLOMONA
The Sale Sharks wing could play for Samoa having not added to his five caps for England since 2017. Although born in New Zealand, Solomona has represented Samoa in rugby league and his family hail from the Pacific island.

GEORGE KRUIS
Former England second-row Kruis probably hasn’t given up a return for England under Jones. He could however eventually play for Canada through his Canadian father, although he’d have to wait until March, 2023. The kicker for Kruis is that Canada haven’t qualified for France 2023, the first time the nation failed to do so in the history of the tournament.

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TEIMANA HARRISON
New Zealand-born and raised – Harrison’s last involvement with England was back in 2016 and the Saints’ veteran has nailed his colours to the mast regarding his continued desire to play for Jones’ side. “That is always the ambition – until I retire I’ll be gunning for an England spot again,” Harrison told RugbyPass in 2020. He could switch to the All Blacks, as unlikely as that might be.

RUARIDH MCCONNOCHIE
As the name suggests, Ruaridh McConnochie is eligible to play for Scotland through his Scottish father. He won his sole cap for England against Italy in 2019 and would be ready to switch to Gregor Townsend’s side this September.

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