Former Samoa lock Dan Leo has refrained from throwing wholehearted support behind World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont’s call to let players represent Pacific teams after having already played for other nations.
Beaumont announced the suggestion when he released his re-election manifesto on Tuesday ahead of the World Rugby elections, where he is up against former Argentina captain Agustin Pichot for the organisation’s top spot.
Pacific Island nations have long been pushing for change as new eligibility laws would allow them to be far more competitive against tier one sides.
However, Leo – who played 42 times for Samoa between 2005 and 2014 and is now chief executive of Pacific Rugby Players Welfare – told The Times that although he backs Beaumont’s comments, he wouldn’t get carried away until the concept comes to fruition.
“To have a player like Charles Piutau coming back would have an immediate impact. Three or four of those sorts of players coming back changes the outlook of your whole team. And then, when they are back, it would attract sponsors too,” Leo said.
“I totally support Bill in this, but I am reluctant to get too excited about a promised review; I’d be more excited if there was a promise of change. This regulation has been reviewed in the past and this is still where we are.”
The Times reported that Beaumont’s proposed review was intended as a thorough assessment of the current eligibility rules as opposed to just a relaxation of the laws.
In his current term as World Rugby chairman, Beaumont has introduced tougher eligibility restrictions after having increased the residency requirement from three to five years for players wanting to play for countries they weren’t born in.
Should his new initiative come into play, the Pacific Island nations could be able to select a multitude of seasoned internationals from around the globe.
Current England and Ireland midfielders Manu Tuilagi and Bundee Aki would also become available for selection, as would ex-Wallabies Will Skelton, Christian Lealiiafano, Joe Tomane and 2017 British and Irish Lions star Ben Te’o.
As for Tonga, the likes of former New Zealand stars Charles Piutau, Malakai Fekitoa, George Moala, Frank Halai and Augustine Pulu could all feature alongside Welsh star Taulupe Faletau and powerhouse Japan loose forward Amanaki Mafi.
Australia could also provide a large contingent via former representatives Tolu Latu, Sekope Kepu and current prop Taniela Tupou.
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