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International Rugby League tightens key loophole

In an effort to restore integrity to the international game, International Rugby League (IRL) have amended key eligibility rules ahead of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup, tightening a key loophole from 2016 that allowed players to switch between Tier 1 and 2 nations multiple times in a year.

The new rules state that if a player elects to represent one nation, they cannot represent another nation in the same calendar year.

Photo / NRL.com

Although players are still able to nominate one Tier-1 nation and one Tier-2 nation to represent during their careers, they will no longer be able to switch nations by the week or between tournaments in the same year.

The lure of dual-eligibility takes a hit as the likes of Anthony Milford, Kotoni Staggs, and Josh Papali’i have to make the difficult decision of putting their name forward for Origin and Kangaroos selection, or withdrawing early to represent their Pacific nation later in the year at the 2021 World Cup.

Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, IRL’s Southern Hemisphere General Manager Jeremy Edwards says, “This is about giving about giving people the opportunity to represent the area of their heritage.”

“It has been confusing [in the past].”

“It’s a chance for the player to make a decision and for the fans to understand it as well.”

Although 2019 proved to be an unprecedented year for the international game, there was still discontent in many camps regarding the frequency of players switching nations.

Broncos fullback Jamayne Isaako and Cronulla-Sutherland winger Ronaldo Mulitalo were notable mid-season nation switchers.

Isaako played a test for Samoa in June against Papua New Guinea in their opening match of the IRL’s Oceania Cup, before rejoining the Kiwis four months later to close out New Zealand’s Oceania Cup campaign, essentially playing for two different teams in the same tournament.

Mulitalo joined the Toa Samoa for their last test of the Oceania Cup against Fiji at Eden Park, but not before turning out in the red, white, and blue for USA at the World Cup 9’s tournament a month prior.

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