IRB to block Games loophole allowing players to switch national allegiance

Steffon Armitage considering options with France for the 2015 World Cup

The International Rugby Board is ready to block exploitation of a loophole in qualifying regulations for Rio 2016 that enables players to switch national allegiance.

Changes to eligibility rules ahead of sevens’ Olympics debut means a player can represent a country provided they have the correct passport and have not been capped by another team for 18 months.

An appearance in just one qualification event for the Games would consequently open the door to being selected for that nation's 15-a-side team. European player of the year Steffon Armitage is considering his options with France for the 2015 World Cup due to England's refusal to pick anyone who is based overseas. Other cases could see Steve Mafi swap Tonga for Australia and Wallabies great George Smith move in the opposite direction.

But chief executive Brett Gosper insists the IRB is alert to potential abuses of the system. “There is a regulations committee that will look at all applications for transfer and they will look to see if it’s for bona fide sevens reasons,” Gosper said yesterday.


“There is a safety net and any transfer will have to be passed by the committee. They will act according to the spirit of the law. For example, if we have huge props applying for a career in sevens, then we’ll smell a rat. That’s an obvious example and there will be some cases that are in a grey area, but we want to ensure the integrity of the regulation and the spirit behind it is upheld.”

Gosper confirmed the IRB is in negotiation with the English RFU over the staging of Aviva Premiership matches during the knock-out phase of the World Cup.

Alarmed by the possibility of five income-free months due to the sport’s global showpiece being held in September and October, England’s clubs are seeking compensation from the RFU for the delay in starting the 2015-16 season. Allowing Premiership games to take place when the World Cup quarter-finals start on October 17th is one way of alleviating the problem.


Australia welcomed hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau back from injury for Saturday’s Rugby Championship Test against


but there was a snub for

Scott Higginbotham

when Ben McCalman was named as starting number eight.

The return of Polota-Nau, who has not played since he injured his knee in the Super Rugby final, could not have come at a better time with the Wallabies expecting a serious challenge in the frontrow from the Pumas on the Gold Coast. The switch at hooker was the only one of the three changes from the team that beat South Africa 24-23 in Perth last weekend that was not forced on coach Ewen McKenzie.

Peter Betham comes in on the right wing for Adam Ashley-Cooper, who was ruled out with a neck injury, while McCalman replaces Wycliff Palu, who suffered a head knock against the South Africans.

Kurtley Beale, who, having been dropped as flyhalf in favour of Bernard Foley, was again named as one of only two backs on a forward-heavy bench along with former captain James Horwill.

Dan Carter is in doubt to play any part in the championship as the All Blacks outhalf battles to recover from a broken leg. The 32-year-old, who has not played for the All Blacks since last November, had a sabbatical from all rugby for the first six months of this year, then broke his leg against the New South Wales Waratahs in the Super Rugby final. AUSTRALIA (v Argentina): I Folau; P Betham, T Kuridrani, M Toomua, R Horne; B Foley, N Phipps; J Slipper, T Polota-Nau, S Kepu, S Carter, R Simmons, S Fardy, M Hooper (capt), B McCalman. Replacements: J Hanson, P Cowan, B Alexander, J Horwill, S Higginbotham, M Hodgson, N White, K Beale.