Six Nations defectors: 40 players who swapped allegiances
Since 2000, a player has not been allowed to represent two different senior international sides during their Test career, which is a ruling that is constantly being scrutinised. Before then, plenty of players played for two countries, including some greats of the game.
However, there is nothing stopping players from representing junior sides or even playing in unofficial matches before defecting to play for another Test side.
The Six Nations is awash with players who have done this, so here are some who have defected to another county during their career.
Saracens’ recently retired captain may have won 26 caps for England during his career, but he represented the Emerging Springboks in 2007 in the IRB Nations Cup, as well as South Africa U21s the year before.
In a varied career, he played rugby league for Samoa in 2008 before eventually playing union for England and the 2017 British and Irish Lions.
Like Te’o, the Sale Sharks winer played for Samoa in rugby league in 2016.
Like Lowe, the Leinster scrum-half was capped by Ireland in the autumn having previously represented the Maori All Blacks.
Ulster’s out-half was part of the England U20s that not only won the World Championship in 2014, but saw many of its players scatter over Europe.
Ulster’s full-back represented England U20s in 2012.
The ex-Leinster hooker who was capped by Ireland won the 2005 U19s World Championship with South Africa and was a cousin of former Springboks hooker Adriaan Strauss.
The Dragons centre was another member of England’s U20s World Championship-winning side. He furthermore played for England Saxons against South Africa A in 2016 alongside Ireland’s Haley.
Like Tompkins, the Brostol out-half was capped for Wales in 2020 having played for England in some capacity. Although born in Cardiff, he came off the bench for England against the Barbarians in an uncapped match in 2019.
Ospreys’ fly-half represented New Zealand at U20s level in 2011.
The Dragons loose forward was a member of the England U20s side alongside Tompkins in 2014.
Newcastle’s forward was a member of an England squad in the past (2018 Six Nations), but he was born in Scotland, had represented their U20s side and has been capped twice Gregor Townsend.
Saracens’ winger has been a feature for Scotland since 2013, but he previously represented the Maori All Blacks in 2010 and New Zealand U20s in 2008.
Scarlets’ loose forward has had a similar career to Maitland, as he too played for the Maori All Blacks on multiple occasions and New Zealand U20s in 2010.
Gloucester’s centre represented England Counties in 2013.
Glasgow Warriors’ loosehead earned his first cap in the autumn having won the World Rugby U20s Championship with South Africa in 2012.
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Worcester Warriors’ back row played for South Africa U20s in 2011.
London Irish’s loosehead was a member of the same world champion South African age-geade side as Kebble in 2012.
Exeter Chiefs’ lock was capped by Scotland in 2018 despite playing for England U20s in 2015.
The Glasgow Warriors and ex-Scotland winger was born in the USA and represented Ireland U19s in 2007.
Scotland’s ex-flanker played alongside Maitland for New Zealand U20s.
Montpellier’s bruising lock was in the same South Africa U20s side as Scotland’s Kebble and Dell.
The New Zealand-born La Rochelle tighthead played for Samoa U20s in 2009.
Racing 92’s ex-France flanker represented South Africa U19s way back in 2003.
Benetton’s full-back was part of New Zealand 7s training camp under Gordon Tietjens in 2007.
Like Kebble, Dell and Willemse, Benetton’s flanker was also a world champion in 2012 with South Africa U20s.
'I woke up every morning thinking I made the wrong decision.'
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Zebre’s lock played for England U20s in 2012 and 2013 before switching to play for Italy in 2019.
The former fly-half was capped by Ireland U20s in 2009 before resurrecting his career in Italy after being blinded in one eye.
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Another teammate of Wales’ Moriarty and Tompkins, and Ireland’s Burns for the world-beating 2014 England U20s, the Benetton scrum-half debuted for Italy in 2019.
The ex-Italy captain represented New Zealand U19s in 2005.
Although he earned 89-caps for Italy during his career, the former full-back won the U19s World Championship with Australia in 2006.
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