25 Sep 2014

Sport: Tonga criticises IRB eligibility changes

11:15 am on 25 September 2014

The Tonga Rugby Union has hit out at the International Rugby Board for making further changes to player eligibility rules, ending Pacific hopes of strengthening their teams for next year's World Cup.

Under IRB regulation 8, players can still 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.

But the threshold for fifteen's has been tightened, with players now required to serve a three-year stand-down and play in four sevens tournaments and at the Olympics before they can make the switch.

The earliest a player can now represent their new country is at the end of 2016.

Tonga Rugby Union chair Epeli Taione says they are disappointed by the latest changes, which were made without warning.

"Typical of IRB and [we're] just frustrated at the lack on consultation on this. The most disappointing this is the knowledge that the conflict of interest and all the people that was in the committee for IRB it supports their interests - there's no other way around it. 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."