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Charles Piutau confident about representing Tonga at 2019 RWC

By Peteso Cannon

Regarded as one of the most talented backs in world rugby, Charles Piutau was widely expected to go on and win many more All Blacks caps than his current tally of sixteen.


Having signed for Bristol next season, Piutau will enjoy the tag of being the highest paid player in world rugby, yet is ineligible to play test rugby, due to All Black eligibility rules that prevent anyone playing offshore from selection.

However, there is a loophole in World Rugby’s eligibility laws, that could see the 26-year-old represent Tonga, his country of heritage at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Piutau will need to represent their sevens side in either their Olympic qualifying schedule or at the 2018/2019 World Series.

Should this come to fruition the utility back would become eligible to represent Tonga’s fifteen aside team, a loophole that Tim Nanai-Williams has utilised to represent Manu Samoa.

In an interview with RadioLIVE, Piutau confessed that the switch was something that had been on his mind for some time and is confident the switch will materialise.

“At the moment, if all my clubs that I’m with currently are happy, and the Tongan union and all different parties are happy, then I will be more than happy to,” said Piutau.


“I was born in New Zealand but both my parents are born in Tonga, and I have a strong connection and ties to the culture and for Tonga as well, so it feels like I’m just as much as I’m a Kiwi.”

“I feel equally Tongan because of my upbringing.”

“The Tongan coach had approached me, and it was something I thought of even before he had approached me.”

He is also optimistic that players who find themselves in a similar situation will follow his lead, to help growth of the game in the Pacific Islands and to give back to their countries of heritage.

“It’s beyond the individual and seeing the benefits what it can do for second-tier countries,” said Piutau.


“For me it’s maybe just revisiting the rules that we have at the moment and really seeing the benefit of players that are no longer playing international rugby that are overseas being able to help out the tier-two nations.

“Having seen what it’s done for the World Cup in the league, I think that speaks for itself and how much it had helped their sport.”

Piutau is however also conscious that the loophole doesn’t become abused.

“When players do get involved they’ll see the benefits of not only being there from a World Cup perspective, or during that season, but during the other tours, during the other years,” he said.

“The tier-two nations need it more and I guess in way too you don’t want too many switches between countries.”



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Shaylen 5 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

These guys will be utility players Nick it cannot be helped because coaches cannot help themselves. Rassie looks at players like these and sees the ability to cover multiple positions without losing much. It allows the 6-2 or 7-1. He wont change his coaching style or strategy for one player. At provincial level players like these are indispensable. If there is an injury to your starting 12 but your back up 12 is a bit iffy then a coach is going to go with the back up 10 who is gold and who can play a good 12. Damian Willemse for the Springboks is an obvious case, for the Stormers its the same. Dobson plays him at 12 or 15, with Gelant in the team he plays 12 but if Gelant goes down he doesnt go for his back up 15, he just puts Willemse there. With Frawley its the same at international and provincial level. He just slots in wherever. Frans Steyn made a career out of it. He was much maligned though as a youngster as he never fully developed into any role. He then went to Japan and France to decide for himself what kind of player he was, put on muscle and retained his big boot, ran over players and booted the ball long and came back into the Springboks after about 3 years away and was then certain about how he wanted to play the game no matter what position. Coaches cannot help themselves because they only want what is best for their teams and that means putting your most talented players on even if it means you cause them some discomfort. Sometimes players need to decide how they want to play the game and then adapt that to every position and let the coach decide how they want to use them.

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Jon 11 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

I think the main problem here is the structure of both countries make up. They are going to have very similar.. obstacles(not problems). It will just be part of the evolution of their rugby and they’ll need to find a way to make this versatility more advantageous than specialization. I think South Africa are well on the way to that end already, but Ireland are more likely to have a hierarchical approach and move players around the provinces. Ioane is going to be more than good enough to lock up one of those available positions for more than a few years I believe though. Morgan would definitely be a more long term outlook. Sacha to me has the natural footwork of a second five. Not everything is about winning, if a team has 3 players that want to play 10s just give them all a good go even if its to the detriment of everyone, this is also about dreams of the players, not just the fans. This is exactly how it would be in an amateur club setting. Ultimately some players just aren’t suited to any one position. The example was of a guy that had size and speed, enough pace to burn, power to drive, and speed to kick and pass long, but just not much else when it came to actual rugby (that matched it). New Zealand has it’s own example with Jordie Barrett and probably shows what Reece Hodge could have been if the game in Australia had any administration. Despite the bigger abundance of talent in NZ, Jordie was provided with consistent time as a fullback, before being ushered in as a second five. Possibly this was due to his blood, and another might not have been as fortunate, but it is what it was, a complete contrast to how Hodge was used in Australia, were he could have had any position he wanted. When it comes down to it though, much like these young fellas, it will be about what they want, and I think you’ll find they’ll be like Hodge and just want to be as valuable to the team as they can and play wherever. It’s not like 63 International Cap is a hard thing to live with as a result of that decision!

37 Go to comments
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