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Speedy wing Pulu comes onto Wallabies radar despite 7s caps for Niue

The 28-year-old wing has been impressive for the Chiefs in recent seasons.

NEW BRUMBIES SIGNING Toni Pulu is eligible to be picked for the Wallabies despite previously winning international sevens caps for tiny island nation Niue.

The lightning-quick Pulu, who was born in America but moved to New Zealand as a child, has spent the last three seasons playing Super Rugby for Kiwi side the Chiefs, scoring 14 tries in 31 appearances.

Toni Pulu with Courtney Lawes Pulu played against the Lions for the Chiefs last year. Source: Photosport/Bruce Lim/INPHO

Pulu has also featured extensively for Counties Manukau in the Mitre 10 Cup and was considered to be one of the fastest players in New Zealand rugby, but Australian Super Rugby side the Brumbies announced his signature on a two-year deal today.

It has since emerged that Pulu will also come onto the Wallabies’ radar as he qualifies to play for Michael Cheika’s side due to one of his parents being from Australia.

Confusingly, Pulu has already represented the South Pacific Ocean nation of Nuie - which has a population of less than 2,000 people – in international sevens.

Nuie is a member union of World Rugby and while their 15s side has been dormant in recent years, they do still compete in regional sevens tournaments.

Pulu played for Nuie at the Gold Coast leg of the 2011 World Rugby Sevens Series and that would normally mean a player was ‘captured’ by the nation they had played for.

However, The42 understands that Pulu was not actually eligible to play for Nuie – whose union believed he had family links to the nation – when he featured for them in 2011.

His eligibility case was heard by a World Rugby regulations committee in 2014, by which time Pulu was making a name for himself in New Zealand rugby.

The fact that the case was heard back in 2014 meant the most recent regulation reforms around player eligibility in rugby had not yet taken place, ensuring that the regulations that currently apply were not in place.

A World Rugby spokesperson told The42 that at that time in 2014, World Rugby’s regulations deemed that unions, rather than players, were culpable for eligibility breaches.

The regulations committee for Pulu’s case determined that there had been an eligibility breach by Niue Rugby Football Union.

The union was sanctioned and, in line with World Rugby Regulation 8 at the time, Pulu was deemed ineligible for Niue, but not captured due to his sevens appearances.

Reform of the regulation since means that unions and players share joint culpability for breaches of the eligibility regulations.

The 2014 hearing involving Pulu, however, meant that the speedy wing’s record with Nuie was essentially wiped away and ensured he was eligible for America, Australia and New Zealand – having lived there since the age of three.

The 28-year-old now looks highly likely to come into the mix for the Wallabies after his move to the Brumbies.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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