IRB look to close Sevens loophole

Date published: September 9 2014

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The IRB are looking to close the loophole which could see players switch nationalities according to chief executive Brett Gosper.

The IRB are looking to close the loophole which could see players switch nationalities according to chief executive Brett Gosper.

With rugby becoming an Olympic sport in 2016, a loophole was opened up for those players who had previously played international rugby for one country and wished to change allegiances in Sevens, which would then have carried over into the 15-man game.

Players with passports for another country and who hadn't played international rugby in the previous 18 months, simply needed to take part in an Olympic Sevens tournament, including qualifiers, to become eligible for the XVs side of their new country.

That has led to a number of big name players considering switching countries, including current European Player of the Year Steffon Armitage who could become eligible for France, as could Montpellier number eight Alex Tulou.

Elsewhere World Cup winner Isaia Toeava is one of a number of players tied to New Zealand who has expressed interest in representing Samoa, and Tongan Steve Mafi is aiming to become an Australian international.

However Gosper has revealed that there will be a committee to oversee all applications to ensure the moves are not simply an excuse to play XVs for another country.

“There is a regulations committee that will look at all applications for transfer and they will look to see if it's for bona fide Sevens reasons,” Gosper told the Press Association.

“There is a safety net and any transfer will have to be passed by the committee. They will act according to the spirit of the law.

“For example, if we have huge props applying for a career in sevens, then we'll smell a rat.

“That's an obvious example and there will be some cases that are in a grey area, but we want to ensure the integrity of the regulation and the spirit behind it is upheld.

“Any obvious abuses that go counter to that spirit of why we're doing this will be caught in the regulations committee net.

“But players will move in both codes by coming into the sevens game – that will happen.”

It remains to be seen how strict the IRB will be over these moves, with the likes of Armitage, Toeava and fellow Samoan hopeful Fritz Lee, having already played international Sevens in the past.

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