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One vote changed Pacific eligibility

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Just one vote stopped former internationals from switching Test allegiances

The chairman of Pacific Rugby Players, Hale T-Pole, has revealed that one of rugby’s most discussed potential eligibility law changes was almost ratified at a recent World Rugby meeting.

There has been much lobbying over the last decade to allow players to represent more than one nation at Test match level.

Under the current laws, once a player has been capped, he is no longer able to switch allegiances. This has resulted in a number of players – primarily of Pacific Island descent – earning a handful of caps for a tier-one nation and then spending the rest of their days restricted from taking part in international football.

Suggestions have been pushed forward that would allow players to play for a second nation, providing they meet all the other eligibility criteria and have only had a small stint with the Test team they were initially selected in.

World Rugby considered such a law but it didn’t quite make it off the ground.

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“We lost out by one vote last time,” T-Pole told Stuff News recently.

T-Pole believes that even if the law had been ratified, it would be just a “short-term fix”.

“From where we stand it’s a tricky one because we want to push for our players but the reality is they’ve played their best rugby trying to get to the All Blacks and if they don’t make it we get the second part of their career,” said T-Pole.

New Zealand’s only eligibility laws mean that a player has to reside in the country in order to represent the All Blacks. That rule has resulted in countless players being forced to choose between the money on offer from representing clubs in Japan or Europe, or playing for the world’s most successful rugby nation.

For Pacific players, having the ability to send money home to the islands where funds available are considerably less plentiful than in the developed rugby world makes it tough to stay in New Zealand.

Clubs in Europe are especially happy to bring these types of players north because they won’t have to take time out from the domestic game in order to play Test rugby.

Allowing players to switch national allegiances would thus have a significant impact on the power-brokers in the Northern Hemisphere.

There’s also a train of thought that representing New Zealand and also wanting to earn a living is for some reason an insult to the game.

“They say, ‘You can’t go and play for the All Blacks and make a name and a bit of money and then apply to change’,” T-Pole said. “I understand that.”

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Just one vote stopped former internationals from switching Test allegiances
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