Ex-Wallabies playmaker Christian Leali’ifano is among the latest players to switch nations after being included in Samoa’s starting lineup to face Japan.
Former All Blacks prop Charlie Faumuina and Leali’ifano are set to make their debuts for Manu Samoa against Japan on Saturday to stake claims for the Pacific nation’s World Cup squad.
Faumuina, 36, played the last of his 50 Tests for New Zealand in 2017 and has been named among the Samoa replacements to face Japan in Hokkaido.
The veteran tighthead prop has been playing for Toulouse since leaving New Zealand in 2017.
Leali’ifano, who made 26 appearances for the Wallabies up until 2019, has also switched countries and will make his Samoa debut at flyhalf.
The 35-year-old played for Moana Pasifika in the Super Rugby Pacific championship this season.
Samoa head coach Vaovasamanaia Seilala Mapusua said the experience of Faumuina and Leali’ifano would be “really, really big” for his team.
Under governing body World Rugby’s eligibility rules, Faumuina and Leali’ifano can switch countries because neither has played international rugby in the last three years.
Japan and Samoa are also due to meet in Pool D at the Rugby World Cup, which kicks off in September, along with Argentina, England and Chile.
Malō le onosa’i Samoa
Your team to take on Japan
— Manu Samoa (@manusamoa) July 20, 2023
Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images