More IRB eligibility changes end Pacific teams’ hope

Further changes made by IRB to its player eligibility rules had been lambasted as a move to cripple the Pacific Islands rugby union teams.

Tonga Rugby Union chair, ‘Epeli Taione, criticised the new changes and said Tonga will launch a complaint.

After the Olympic committee agreed to recognise rugby sevens as an Olympic sport starting in 2016, IRB announced in July that under its handbook regulation 8, players can switch to a second nation in sevens at the 2016 Olympics if they hold a passport for that country, have not played international rugby for at least 18 months and play at least one tournament in the upcoming World Series.

IRB has again changed the rules and now the fifteen players have to serve a three-year stand-down and play in four sevens tournaments and at the Olympics before they can make the switch.

This was bad news for Pacific Island countries who began inviting players who played at tier one nations to play for them in next year’s Rugby World Cup in England.

The new rules say the earliest to recruit  players from other countries  will be at the end of 2016. This was because players who wanted to play for their new countries have to participate in the sevens tournament at Rio’s Olympic Games 2016.

Also the players who will switch nations will not be able to revert to their former Union should their application to play for a second Union fall through, the new rules say.

Taione told Radio New Zealand International they were disappointed by the latest changes.

He said: “… They call it the Rugby World Cup but it might as well be one just for New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and the home nations, because they don’t want anybody else to compete. It is quite frustrating and I’m pretty sure that Fiji and Samoa share the views on this. We will have a formal complaint about this. We certainly don’t think it is in the right spirit of the sport – they seem to make the rules as they go.”

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