World Rugby confirms rule change that will see Vunipola switch nations - Ruck

World Rugby confirms rule change that will see Vunipola switch nations

The World Rugby Council has approved an amendment to the sport’s regulations governing national team representation that will now permit an international player to transfer once from one union to another subject to demonstrating a close and credible link to that union via birth right.

From 1 January, 2022, in order to transfer from one union to another under the revised Regulation 8 (eligibility), a player will need to achieve the below criteria:

  • The player must stand-down from international rugby for 36 months
  • The player must either be born in the country to which they wish to transfer or have a parent or grandparent born in that country
  • Under the revised Regulation 8 criteria, a player may only change union once and each case will be subject to approval by the World Rugby Regulations Committee to preserve integrity

After 1 January 2022, any player who meets the above criteria can apply immediately for a transfer.

#1. Mako Vunipola (England to Tonga)

  • Current number of caps: 73
  • Age at the start of RWC 2023: 32
  • Did you know?  In 2018, Vunipola and his partner welcomed a son, Jacob.

Born in Wellington, New Zealand, the loosehead-prop would be eligible to play for Tonga as he is the son of former Tonga captain Fe’ao Vunipola. He is also the nephew of two other former international players, Manu and ‘Elisi Vunipola who both represented Tonga in the 1990s.

The prop has said that he’d love to play for Tonga, but worries he’d be taking the spot of a younger player.

“Obviously I’d love to play for them, but it’s difficult because it would be unfair to those back on the island; to see myself as an old man coming in and taking that opportunity away from them.

‘It’s a catch-22 really. You’d like to see people not being tied down to one (country) and being able to represent those countries – and they’d be better for it – but you’d also like locals to have the opportunity to make a better life for themselves by playing for their country and on the back of that getting contracts overseas.”


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