Former All Black Charles Piutau's hopes of playing international rugby for Tonga could yet receive a lifeline.
This weekend's Olympic Sevens Qualifier had been earmarked as a chance for the 29 year old to complete his switch from New Zealand to Tonga, who he represented at age grade level.
Players can switch their international allegiance by playing in an Olympic qualifying event, provided they have a passport for the second country and have completed a stand down period of three years.
Piutau played the last of his 17 tests for the All Blacks six years ago and previously stated he would love to represent his Tongan heritage.
The Bristol Bears star will miss the Monaco tournament because his club are competing in the English Premiership semi finals, but Tonga Sevens manager Richard Weightman said there was still a pathway for Piutau to represent the kingdom at senior level.
"You wish a guy like that all the well with the playoffs and (if we win in Monaco and) we make the Olympics in Japan and all of a sudden he's got the opportunity to wear the red jersey and be at the 2023 World Cup."
One player who will turn out for Tonga this weekend is Piutau's former All Blacks team-mate Malakai Fekitoa.
The Ha'apai born midfielder is among four players who will switch their international allegiance to Tonga at the weekend.
Richard Weightman said he first came onto the radar of the Tongan sevens team back in 2008, after impressing at a local tournament.
"Malakai got identified from that, played for us when he was like 17, helped us qualify for the 2009 World Cup in Dubai Sevens, and the rest is history," he recalled.
"...but all through it he's always remembered where he's come from. The most humble guy you could ever meet, always gave back, would come and help us out at trainings - just an outstanding individual - and great to have him recommit and want to play for Tonga. He's super excited."
Navutoka born La Rochelle lock Lopeti Timani will also wear the red jersey in Monaco, alongside Tasman winger Tima Fainga'anuku and Perpignan midfielder Afusipa Taumoepeau, who previously represented New Zealand and Australia in sevens.
The former Wallaby played 12 tests in the green and gold but is now set to emulate older brother Sione Timani, who played eight tests for the 'Ikale Tahi between 2008 and 2012.
Another brother, Sitaleki Timani, was recalled to the Australian national team at the weekend for the first time in eight years.
The Tongan sevens squad includes a mix of new faces and current and former 'Ikale Tahi players, including some who have not represented their country for a number of years.
"A lot of these have come through the junior ranks," Richard Weightmann explained.
"They've then gone and made a professional life for themselves and what's great with this opportunity is that those players are now able to come together, celebrate their Tongan culture, celebrate the villages that they first came from. It's a real special occasion for these guys to get together and come together as a squad."
Tonga's New Zealand based sevens squad, including head coach Tevita Tu'ifua, have not travelled to the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, because of the complications caused by Covid-19.
But Richard Weightman said there was a silver lining.
"Even though some of our boys, that have been involved with our squad for the last three years, are missing out on this opportunity because of the MIQ situation it's opened the door for the European players.
"Some of the challenge of getting European players into New Zealand - again because of the MIQ situation - has opened the door for some of our sevens players that hopefully will be named in the 'Ikale Tahi squad when it's named later, so one door might close (but) another one opens."
Malakai Fekitoa is scheduled to link up with the Tongan squad in Monaco on Monday, after he played in Wasps English Premiership defeat by Leicester Tigers at the weekend.