The same IRB loophole that could allow Steffon Armitage to play for France at the 2015 World Cup could be exploited by a number of ex-All Blacks.
The IRB loophole allows international players to change national allegiance by taking advantage of an Olympic ruling which means that players must hold that nation’s passport in order to compete for their country.
Essentially any player that has represented a team internationally but holds a passport for a second country could switch allegiances during the 2014-15 IRB Sevens World Series if they haven’t played for their national side in the preceding 18 months.
It’s not quite as simple as this however as players must apply to make the switch, if they gain approval though they then turn out for their new country during next years World Sevens Series which also double as the qualifiers for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
The IRB rules then state that once a player has made their debut in sevens for a new national team they are then able to play any form of rugby for their new country.
This means the likes of Frank Halai, Isaia Toeava and Joe Rokocoko could end up facing the All Blacks as a member of the Tongan, Samoan and Fijian sides respectively.
Another man who could theoretically switch allegiances is Sonny Bill Williams who hasn’t played for the All Blacks since August 2012, although this seems unlikely having just resigned with the New Zealand Rugby Union.
However it seems plausible that the likes of Isaia Toeava, Joe Rokocoko or Sitiveni Sivivatu could make the switch as they appear to have no future with the All Blacks.
The next chance players will have to switch allegiance will be during the 2018-19 IRB Sevens World Series, doubling as a qualifying event for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
From then on the stand-down period for players will be extended to three-years, rather than the 18 months this coming season.
It seems entirely plausible that a number of national sides could fall victim to this loophole alongside the All Blacks, however it could be a positive step forward in encouraging players to turn out for their nations of birth.