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.
The former England captain and British and Irish Lions representative called for a review of the current regulation which prevents players from representing more than one nation.
Such a move would allow a plethora of current and former All Blacks, Wallabies, England, Ireland, Wales and France stars to represent the likes of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga on the international stage.
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.
Of those whose international careers have already come to a standstill, the likes of ex-All Blacks duo Waisake Naholo and Seta Tamanivalu could turn out for Fiji.
Those two could be joined by England representatives Nathan Hughes and Semesa Rokoduguni, Wallabies pair Henry Speight and Samu Kerevi and French duo Noa Nakaitaci and Virimi Vakatawa.
Samoa could also have a vastly improved squad through the additions of former All Blacks Jerome Kaino, Victor Vito, Charlie Faumuina, Steven Luatua, Lima Sopoaga, Julian Savea and Ma’a Nonu.
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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