Charles Piutau Determined To Switch Allegiance & Play In The 2019 Rugby World Cup
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Sign him up.
Former All Black Charles Piutau wants to play for Tonga at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
The 26-year-old earned 17 test caps for New Zealand between 2013 and 2015, but was famously overlooked for the last World Cup squad in favour of Waisake Naholo after signing for Irish province Ulster.
Tonga head coach Toutai Kefu spoke to Radio NZ and revealed that plans are already in place for Piutau to make the switch.
“I’ve spoken to him a few times and his brother as well – he’s very determined to play for Tonga so we’re very happy about that.
“Pat Lam really understands our plight and understands that these Pacific Islander players are very keen to play for their country whenever possible.”
Kefu also revealed that Piutau is not the only high profile international Tonga is chasing to switch their international allegiance in time for the Rugby World Cup.
“There’s a winger in France now by the name of Frank Halai, who’s had also a cap for the All Blacks. He’s a player we’re very much interested in and he’s a player that’s very much interested in coming to play for us,” said Kefu.
“There’s also some ex Wallabies: Sitaleki Timani and also Anthony Fainga’a – there’s a few more as well but that’s just the few names that scratch the surface.”
Players who have represented one country’s national 15-a-side team, or senior sevens team have the chance to switch allegiance to another nation, provided they had a passport for the second country and have completed a stand down period of three years.
The first time a player represents their new union or country must be in an Olympic event, which can include Olympic qualifying tournaments and the 2018/19 World Series. But Kefu has admitted that creates an added complication for Tonga.
“Tonga aren’t on the main (World Sevens) series so our tournaments would have to come through the Oceania sevens qualifying tournaments, which at this stage we’re not quite sure where they’re going to be held at,” he said.
“They just have to play two tournaments I think…they just have to be Olympic qualifying tournaments.
“There’s a tournament in the World Cup year  that we still need to find out the minor details of that with Oceania [Rugby], but there’s a tournament that we may be able to qualify them in around June/July of World Cup year.”
Should Tonga mange to recruit Piutau and others for the Rugby World Cup, it could be bad news for England who are in the same group as them for the 2019 showpiece event.