Players’ boss Rob Nichol pushes World Rugby to fix Folau Fakatava eligibility ‘anomaly’
28 November, 2021, 1:00 pm
Highlanders halfback Folau Fakatava’s All Blacks eligibility status could be determined in the next few weeks as NZRPA chief executive Rob Nichol pushes World Rugby to pass a “simple fix” that would clarify the positions of players stuck in rugby’s equivalent of no-man’s land.
Tongan-born Fakatava is currently in the curious position of being deemed ineligible for the All Blacks in 2022, despite having been eligible to play for them since late 2020 and throughout 2021, and having remained in New Zealand during that period.
Nichol wants the rules that created that situation to be amended, not just for Fakatava but others in the same boat.
“It’s not just about Folau, it’s an anomaly that’s been created through the way the regulation has been altered,” Nichol told Stuff.
“It’s been highlighted, and it’s now up to World Rugby if they choose to fix it.
“It’s an easy fix. Very easy. It’s literally just to say that once you have qualified, based on your residency, you maintain that qualification so long as you remain resident.”
The Fakatava situation arose because World Rugby changed its eligibility rules to extend the residential requirement from three years to five years.
That move was widely welcomed as a way to protect the integrity of the game, but its implementation has caused issues for a small number of players such as Fakatava.
It created a scenario where Fakatava – who moved to New Zealand when was 16 – was eligible through residency in 2021 but then declared ineligible until 2023 because he had not been ‘captured’ by selection – either for NZ Sevens or the All Blacks – this year.
Nichol said it was an illogical outcome, and that World Rugby had been warned it could happen.
“We highlighted this to World Rugby when they first did the change, and they said, ‘No it’ll be fine, and we said, ‘Oh well’.
“Then we highlighted it again, because you’ve got to strip it back and say it doesn’t make sense that a player can become eligible and still stay in that country, and then all of a sudden be ineligible.
“So, it’s been raised with World Rugby and there’s a really easy amendment that can be made that basically says once you become eligible through residency, you don’t lose it.
“Fingers crossed this gets sorted because like I said, it’s not just about Folau there will be a few players around the world that it affects as well.”