IRB tightens eligibility rules

The International Rugby Board has made it more difficult for players to exploit an Olympic Games sevens loophole and switch nationalities.

Players looking to represent another country will have to play in a minimum of four Sevens World Series tournaments for their conversion to be approved, along with adhering to other terms. All players who apply this way will also have to take part in the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016.

The document also states that players will not be able to revert to their former union should their application to play for a second union fall through.

The IRB also cleared up the messy scenario that enabled England, Scotland and Wales to contest the sevens under one banner, as part of the Great Britain Olympic team, rather than individual countries.

The new ruling stated that for the purposes of Olympic qualification, England have been selected by the Great Britain unions as the lead team. Therefore, Wales and Scotland can't qualify for Great Britain for the Olympics, nor can they take advantage of the loosened rules around players switching countries.

Several former All Blacks are still expected to be picked up by island nations where they have blood links, includlng Isaia Toeava and Rudi Wulf for Samoa, and Joe Rokocoko and Sitiveni Sivivatu for Fiji.

However, the IRB's changes should end the hopes of the likes of England's Steffon Armitage, New Zealander Alex Tulou and Australian duo Brock James and Blair Connor of featuring for France at next year's World Cup as Top 14 sides would be unlikely to allow their foreign recruits to skip club duty in order to play four sevens tournaments.

Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

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