Ex-All Blacks midfielder Malakai Fekitoa has remained coy about his alleged ambition to play for Tonga but he has wished his ex-New Zealand teammate Charles Piutau the very best in his attempt to qualify for the Islanders via the Olympic 7s eligibility loophole.
Test capped players are usually unable to play for two different countries at XVs level. However, a loophole came into the sport when rugby became a sevens event at the Rio Olympics in 2016. Players with dual eligibility who have already bound themselves to one country by representing that nation at XVs can now switch to their other country of allegiance through a loophole spurred on by rugby’s involvement at the Games.
To represent their second nation, a player must have a passport for that country and have completed a three-year international stand down. They must then partake in an Olympic event to make themselves eligible for their new nation at all levels.
This is the route Piutau is hoping to head down by playing for Tonga in a Tokyo Olympics repechage qualifying event in Monaco in June even though it will clash with a potential Gallagher Premiership semi-final appearance by his club Bristol Bears.
While Bristol are league leaders and most likely to reach the English league playoffs, last season’s finalists Wasps are struggling well down the table and with them potentially not making the semi-finals, it would leave Fekitoa without a June fixtures clash if he wanted to represent Tonga.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 3, 2021
However, he refused to play up his chances of switching country allegiance when asked by RugbyPass at Wasps’ weekly media conference what his current thinking on the issue was. “I’m not sure. I haven’t heard anything myself. I have been focusing on playing (here),” said the soon-to-be 29-year-old midfielder who earned the last of his 24 All Blacks caps against the Lions in 2017.
“It has been a tough month for Wasps and I have been working hard. I read on the news about Charles. He really wants to change and play for Tonga all because he wants to help develop the game there. He is one of the best players in the world and he really wants to give back to Tonga and hopefully inspire the young kids there to play the game because in the last couple of years rugby league has taken over the whole island all because of the players going back and playing for Tonga.
“The (2023) World Cup is in France and it would be great if Charles plays. You want the best players to play against each other in the World Cup and he is a great example. I hope it will happen but you never know.
“I can’t say,” added Fekitoa about his own Tongan ambitions. “I’ll wait and see. My first thing is I need to put my head down and get the results for Wasps. They got me here for a reason and I just want to make a difference at this club and hopefully get us into the final game in some tournament this year or next.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 30, 2021
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