Rugby league tighten international eligibility laws

Players looking to represent Samoa at the 2021 Rugby League World Cup can no longer play for another country in that calendar year.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the Rugby League International Federation (R.L.I.F.) have changed their eligibility criteria, which says that: "A Player who has elected to represent a Nation cannot then elect to play for another Nation in the same calendar year."

Other changes mean those who play State of Origin can only play tests for Australia, and the one-nation rules also extend to junior international matches.

The previous rules existed to boost the available talent pool for the likes of Toa Samoa with unwanted Kiwis and Kangaroos stars, but changes have been made to give international rugby league greater integrity.

"This is not about player payments, this is about giving people the opportunity to represent the area of their heritage," said the R.L.I.F.’s southern hemisphere general manager Jeremy Edwards.

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

"It has been confusing [in the past]."

In late 2019, Melbourne Storm starlet Tino Fa’asuamaleaui played for the Australian Prime Minister's XIII, Toa Samoa at the World Cup 9s, the Junior Kangaroos and then Toa Samoa's Test team against Fiji Bati on four straight weekends.

RLIF chairman Greg Barclay said it the game needed to update its policy on eligibility.

"I didn’t want it blindly drafted out of Manchester, it’s got to work for the world game," he said.

"We’re probably a bit guilty of being myopic or Euro-centric with certain things we have done, which is why things may not have worked for this part of the world.

“It’s important we came up with something that works for everybody."

Toa Samoa are scheduled to play England in the first match of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup next October.

To be eligible to play for Samoa at that tournament, players could not represent any other nation throughout 2021.

Last year, two players wore the blue jersey and also played for another country at some stage through 2019.

Fullback Jamayne Isaako played a one-off test for Toa Samoa in June before re-joining the New Zealand Kiwis after the National Rugby League season.

Another fullback Ronaldo Mulitalo made his Toa debut in November after representing the United States of America at the World Cup 9s.

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