What’s There for Fiji?

World Rugby amends rule and allows players to switch national teams.
26 Nov 2021 10:03
What’s There for Fiji?

Vodafone Flying Fijians head coach, Vern Cotter said World Rugby’s decision to relax its eligibility rules allowing players to switch national teams as of January 1, 2022 would provide him experience, options and extra depth.

“That’s from a coaching perspective,” Cotter told SUNsports yesterday.

He said potential players who could be considered are former All Blacks centre Seta Tamanivalu, burly Northampton Saints winger Taqele Naiyaravoro, 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cup winner with the All Blacks, Waisake Naholo. On the list is former England winger Semesa Rokoduguni who currently plays for Bath.

“Also potentially is (Alex) Hodgman,” Cotter said of the former Fijian Under-20 loosehead prop who now plays for Blues and has four All Blacks Test caps under his belt.

Cotter said the mentioned players have Test match experience and also play regularly for their clubs.

“This depth and experience could help young players showing form in the (Fijian) Drua make the transition when they enter the Test arena. Fiji has a lot of rugby players but not a lot of hardened Test match veterans that start week in week out with their clubs,” he added.

Fiji Rugby Union chief executive officer John O’Connor said if the World Rugby was to relax the eligibility rules, the selection of former Test players into the Flying Fijians squad would solely rest with the head coach and the conditions set by the union.

World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “Approval of this landmark regulatory change is the culmination of detailed and widespread modelling and consultation across the game.

“We have listened to our membership and players and sought to update the regulation recognising the modern professional rugby environment without compromising the integrity of the international game,” he said.

“Any player who wishes to transfer will need to have a close and credible link to their new union, namely birth right or parent or grandparent birth right while meeting strong criteria, including a 36-month stand down period.

“We believe that this is the fairest way to implement progressive change that puts players first while also having the potential to support a growing, increasingly competitive international men’s and women’s game.”

The change will certainly benefit Fiji, Samoa and Tonga the most, who have seen several Pacific Island-born players go on to star for other countries.


The rule

From January 1, 2022, in order to transfer from one union to another under the revised Regulation 8 (eligibility), a player will need to achieve the below criteria:

  • The player must stand-down from international rugby for 36 months
  • The player must either be born in the country to which they wish to transfer or have a parent or grandparent born in that country
  • Under the revised Regulation 8 criteria, a player may only change union once and each case will be subject to approval by the World Rugby Regulations Committee to preserve integrity

After January 1, 2022, any player who meets the above criteria can apply immediately for a transfer.

Regulation 8 revisions will also align the “age of majority” across 15s and sevens. All players will now be ‘captured’ at 18 years of age to simplify the Regulation and improve union understanding and compliance.


Benefits of the amendment include:

  • Simplicity and alignment: transfers are currently permitted in the context of participation in the Olympics in the sevens game. This amendment will create one aligned, simplified process across the game
  • Development of emerging nations: the player depth of emerging nations may be improved by permitting players, who have close and credible links to the “emerging union” through birth or ancestry, to “return” to those unions having previously represented another union
  • Player-focused approach: the process recognised the modern rugby environment, including global player movement, the current ability to capture players by selecting them on the bench, and the desire of some players to transfer having been selected a limited number of times for one union. It also examined the impact of any change on the integrity of the international competition landscape.



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