Pacific Rugby Players Welfare chief Dan Leo has said “common sense should prevail” regarding the clash of dates which could prevent Charles Piutau from representing Tonga in the future. Having played the last of his 17 Test matches for the All Blacks in 2015, Bristol’s Piutau has met the requirement of being stood down from international rugby for three years. 

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The next step is to play for his new nation’s sevens team in an Olympic event. However, the final Olympic qualifying tournament in Monaco clashes with the Gallagher Premiership semi-finals in June which first place Bristol are more than likely to be in. Missing this Olympics qualifier could bar Piutau from representing Tonga in the future. 

Tonga Rugby Union chief executive Peter Harding has already expressed his doubt over Piutau’s potential switch as the players are contracted to their clubs and it would be a huge risk for the Bristol full-back to opt-out of one of their biggest games of the season. 

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But former Samoa international Leo claimed in response to this awkward situation that World Rugby should allow “automatic eligibility for those genuinely expressing their desire to switch”. 

Difficult position for Bristol,” Leo wrote on Twitter. “Common sense should prevail. A clash of dates whereby the livelihood of a player is jeopardised, World Rugby should allow automatic eligibility for those genuinely expressing their desire to switch – if they have also met stand down duration as stipulated.”

Wasps’ Tongan-born former All Black Malakai Fekitoa is another player who is seeking to make the same switch as Piutau, having last played a Test match in 2017. However, there is still hope for the centre as Wasps currently sit in ninth place in the English league, 14 points from a semi-final spot with seven games remaining. 

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There is still a chance Wasps could sneak into the top four, but their situation is considerably different from Bristol who would require a monumental collapse in the closing rounds of the season to miss out on the playoffs.

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