Sir Bill Beaumont proposed an eligibility change allowing Billy Vunipola to play for his Tongan homeland, but the England number eight doesn’t think it would be right.
“I don’t think it would be right for me to then turn around and say “Right, I’ve had my go with England, I’m going to go back to Tonga,” explained Vunipola to the Mail Online.
“It’s easy to just say, “Come on, guys, let’s have the best players at the World Cup, amazing, let’s do this” but it affects a lot of people.
“When I play for England, I am stopping someone like Ben Morgan. If I go back and play for Tonga, I am also stopping an opportunity for a player whose only goal was to play for Tonga. I don’t think that’s right.
“The reason I don’t play for Tonga is well documented. The biggest export from Tonga is rugby players and it’s our job to find where we can make as much money to support our family.
“Unless we have a system where everyone gets the same amount of money, people will always choose the more stable option.
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“‘It’s tough, but you have a choice. You can’t make the call to play for England, then turn around and say you’ve been hard done by. If you make that call, you stick with it.”
Born in Australia to Tongan parents, the Number 8 spent his childhood in Wales and the South West of England before winning a scholarship to attend the prestigious Harrow School.
Billy comes from a rich vein of rugby talent. His father and uncle played for Tonga while cousin Taulupe Faletau has been capped by Wales and British & Irish Lions. Brother Mako, also a Lion, is a Saracens and England teammate and younger cousin Manu made his senior Sarries debut in the 2018/19 campaign.
LIST | 5 England players who could swap nations for 2023 World Cup
Sir Bill Beaumont has hit back in the World Rugby election race and revealed he wants to create a law change that would allow Manu Tuilagi and other England stars to end their Test career playing for other nations.
The former England captain raised the possibility in his re-election manifesto ahead of next month’s contest with former Argentina scrum-half Agustin Pichot.
In it he promises a review of Regulation 8 which covers eligibility to play for national teams “to see how we can support the longevity of players’ international careers”.
Based on this, we’ve looked at some other current England stars who could head to the 2023 Rugby World Cup to represent other nations.
We’ve not included Billy Vunipola, as we think he is likely to be still in the reckoning for England in three years time.
1. Manu Tuilagi (Samoa)
- Current number of caps: 41
- Age at the start of RWC 2023: 32
- Did you know: He was named Manusamoa, after the name of the Samoan national team
The England centre, who was born in Fogapoa and came to the UK at the age of 13, is one of a clutch of Pacific Island players whose eligibility status could change if the restrictions are relaxed. He is the younger brother of Freddie, Henry, Alesana, Anitelea and Sanele Vavae Tuilagi, all of whom are Samoan internationals and also played for Leicester. It would be fantastic for the powerhouse to complete the set.