The hopes of playing at next year’s World Cup for former All Black utility back Charles Piutau have taken a significant hit, with attempts to bring forward an Olympic-qualifying Sevens tournament forward failing.
The 26-year-old fullback, currently playing for Bristol, hoped to switch his national allegiance to Tonga by completing a three-year stand-down period and becoming eligible by playing for his new country in an Olympic-qualifying Sevens tournament.
Whilst he has completed the first part of that equation, the next Olympic-qualifying tournament won’t be held until after next year’s tournament, despite attempts to bring it forward.
“We were actively exploring a group of players, not just Charles, that were in the same boat and whether we could qualify them before the World Cup, and we can’t,” Tongan coach Toutai Kefu told Stuff.co.nz.
“It got ruled out a couple of months ago.”
Kefu took aim at the eligibility rules and other sides like Japan, who have a stockpiled a number of foreign-born players, particularly from the Pacific islands.
“I think that’s a bit rich,” the former Wallaby international said.
“It”s just an extra hoop we don’t need players to jump through – the three years alone, stand-down, is fine.
“I don’t think there are any integrity issues there.
“Then you watch like teams like Japan, and half the team is Tongan, I think you start talking about integrity in that scenario.”
Piutau missed the 2015 Rugby World Cup squad after announcing he would be departing New Zealand to take up a deal with Wasps in the English Premiership. He will now have to wait until the 2023 edition to play, either by completing a switch to Tonga or moving back to New Zealand to resume his All Blacks career.
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