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Manu Samoa boss sets sights on one-test All Blacks star Josh Ioane

By Sam Smith

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Manu Samoa head coach Seilala Mapusua singled out one-test All Blacks playmaker Josh Ioane as a player he is keen to capture under World Rugby’s new eligibility laws.

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The game’s global governing body voted on Wednesday to allow players capped by one nation to switch international allegiance to play for a different country that they’re qualified for through birthright, provided they stand down from test rugby for three years.

The change in ruling has opened the door for numerous players of Samoan and Tongan descent who have played for other international sides, namely the All Blacks and Wallabies, to turn out for their countries of heritage.

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Since news broke of World Rugby’s law change, Mapusua has wasted little time in outlining which players he is keen on, as he told Stuff that Ioane, who is of Samoan and Maori background, is one player he has on his hit list.

Following a standout Super Rugby campaign for the Highlanders in 2019, Ioane made his test debut for the All Blacks in a 92-7 rout of Tonga in September of that year.

However, the 26-year-old first-five, who has signed with the Chiefs for the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season, hasn’t played for New Zealand since then.

That means that, if he isn’t selected to play for the All Blacks in their July test series against Ireland or in next year’s Rugby Championship, he will become eligible to play for Samoa by virtue of having not played test rugby for three years.

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“You’ve got guys like Josh Ioane, who have played one test for the All Blacks, Josh has been playing some awesome footy at the moment,” Mapusua, the former Manu Samoa midfielder, told Stuff on Thursday.

“It’s exciting to possibly be able call on that calibre of player.

“You’ve also got your up-and-coming players, the likes of D’Angelo Leuila, who had an awesome NPC [for Waikato], and just being able to have that depth and competition for positions will strengthen the team.

“It hasn’t always been the case for Manu Samoa, but now we’ve got options and this genuine competition, and healthy competition. It can only be a good thing.”

Other high-profile players who could switch allegiance to play for Samoa in time for the 2023 World Cup include ex-All Blacks Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea, Lima Sopoaga, Victor Vito, Steven Luatua, Charlie Faumuina and Jeff Toomaga-Allen.

Former Wallabies stars Christian Lealiifano and Joe Tomane, as well as ex-England wing Denny Solomona, could also opt to play for Samoa at France 2023 under the new ruling.

Tonga are also set to gain plenty from the overhauled laws as they will be able to call on the likes of Charles Piutau, Israel Folau, Sekope Kepu, Adam Coleman, Vaea Fifita, George Moala, Atu Moli and Augustine Pulu for the next World Cup.

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Manu Samoa boss sets sights on one-test All Blacks star Josh Ioane

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