World Rugby changes rules to allow national team switches

25 Nov 2021

By: Sport Industry Group

World Rugby has relaxed its eligibility rules to allow national team players to switch countries from January 2022.

Under the current regulations, a player is unable to switch national team once they have won a senior cap - and are thereafter tied to that country.

However, under the new rule change passed on Wednesday by more than 75% of the World Rugby council votes, international players such as England's Billy and Mako Vunipola could represent Tonga, as could New Zealand's Charles Piutau, who won the last of his 17 caps for the All Blacks in 2015, making him eligible to switch allegiance next year.

This also means that there is a possibility that in the 2022 Six Nations a player may represent a second country in the tournament.

From 1 January 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

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

“Any player who wishes to transfer will need to have a close and credible link to their new union, namely birthright or parent or grandparent birthright 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.”

Omar Hassanein, CEO of International Rugby Players said: “The proposal to change the rules around player eligibility is something that we have worked on over many years with our member associations. Many players across the world will now benefit from the chance to represent the country of their or their ancestors' birth, serving as a real boost to the competitiveness of emerging nations, which in turn, will benefit the game as a whole.”  

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