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'If you play one Test for a country, you can’t go back... I think that’s wrong'

Ex-All Blacks Justin Marshall wants to see rugby’s eligibility laws relaxed.

FORMER ALL BLACKS scrum-half Justin Marshall believes rugby players should be able to switch allegiance at Test level even after being capped, in the hope of strengthening the Pacific Island nations.

Current World Rugby regulations dictate that once a player has been capped by a nation in a Test match, that player cannot later represent a different nation in the international game.

Marshall, however, believes that ‘Tier 2′ nations like Samoa, Fiji, and Tonga should be allowed to cap players who have previously featured for a ‘Tier 1′ nation as long as there is a qualifying link to that Pacific Island country.

charles-piutau Former All Black Charles Piutau, who is still just 28, wanted to play for Tonga at this year's World Cup. Source: Photosport/Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

Test rugby would be far more competitive if World Rugby relaxed its eligibility rules to allow capped players to return to Tier 2 nations, according to Marshall. 

Former All Blacks such as Charles Piutau, Frank Halai, Steven Luatua, and Victor Vito – who moved abroad and were therefore not picked by New Zealand any longer – are among many players of Pacific Island heritage who have previously indicated a desire or openness to switching allegiance, if they were allowed. 

And Marshall believes it’s time for World Rugby to ensure international rugby becomes more competitive by making it happen.

“If we want rugby to be the sport that it can be, we want the best players in the world being able to be chosen to play international rugby,” said Marshall.

“And I think World Rugby need to have a little bit of a look at some of their policies.

“You’ve got the situation with the Pacific Island teams, who I thought were incredibly poor at this [World Cup]. Clubs not releasing their players, and World Rugby’s policy that if you play one Test match for a country, then you can’t go back to your origin. I think that’s wrong.

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“For the top-tier nations, yeah, maybe it’s a good policy, but for those teams that really struggle for depth and numbers, let them.

“If that’s the case, we’ve got some Polynesian players that are playing… for example, you guys know with Bundee Aki.

“Now if he was to stop playing for Ireland but was eligible to play for Samoa, would that be a bad thing for the game? I don’t think so.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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