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.
The eight-cap England flanker was not only a member of New Zealand’s U20s side earlier in his career, but was a member of an All Blacks training squad in 2012.
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.
The 22-cap England international and current Bristol No8 played for Fiji Warriors in their victorious 2013 Pacific Rugby Cup campaign.
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.
The back row captained South Africa U20s and trained with the Springboks in 2012 before joining Munster and later playing for Ireland and the British and Irish Lions.
Munster’s one-cap full-back represented England Saxons against South Africa A in 2016 as well as an uncapped match against the Barbarians in 2017 before moving to Munster in 2018.
Leinster’s winger was capped by Ireland in the autumn but had previously played for the Maori All Blacks, starting 2014 against Japan and finishing against the 2017 Lions in Rotorua.
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.
The final member of a trio of Welsh debutants last year who have worn an England shirt, the Scarlets centre started in the Barbarians fixture 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.
The latest call-up to the Scotland squad, Bath’s midfielder was called into Eddie Jones’ England training camp last year.
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.
Racing 92’s midfielder represented Fiji U19s in 2009 before becoming a France 7s player in 2013 and later a Test centre.
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.'
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 27, 2020
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.
RugbyPass Exceptional Stories ??
The inspirational story of Ian McKinley's journey back into professional rugby, after losing complete vision in his left eye.
Narrated by Jim Hamilton. https://t.co/TfJZ4BXwdO
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) December 13, 2018
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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