Rugby: Malakai Fekitoa hopeful of ex-All Black Charles Piutau's Tonga switch for 2023 World Cup

Former All Blacks centre Malakai Fekitoa says he's watching keenly, as former teammate Charles Piutau attempts to switch allegiances to represent Tonga at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.

Players who've played test rugby for one nation are able to change their allegiance to another country - albeit through a rigorous process.

To represent a second nation, a player must have served a minimum of three years out of test rugby, hold a passport for their second country, as well as participate in an Olympic rugby sevens qualifying tournament to gain eligibility at all levels.

Piutau, 29, played 17 tests for the All Blacks, the last of which came in 2015 before leaving New Zealand for Europe, firstly through English side Wasps, before switching to Irish club Ulster, and returning to the UK with Bristol Bears in 2018.

Tonga Rugby chief executive Peter Harding poured cold water on the chances of Piutau's attempted switch yesterday - with the Olympic sevens qualifying tournament in Monaco clashing with the end of the English club season - Fekitoa says he's hopeful that the former All Black will be able to don the red of Tonga.

"He really wants to change and play for Tonga all because he wants to help develop the game there," Fekitoa told Rugby Pass.

"He is one of the best players in the world and he really wants to give back to Tonga and hopefully inspire the young kids there to play the game because in the last couple of years rugby league has taken over the whole island all because of the players going back and playing for Tonga. 

"The (2023) World Cup is in France and it would be great if Charles plays. You want the best players to play against each other in the World Cup and he is a great example. 

"I hope it will happen but you never know."

Piutau's Bristol are currently leading the English Premiership, which would mean a clash of dates for the Olympic qualifier in Monaco.

Fekitoa himself could be another player to swap international allegiances, also able to play for Tonga, but the Wasps midfielder is staying coy on any chance of that happening in the near future.

His Wasps are currently ninth on the ladder in England's Premiership, out of contention to make the playoffs, and freeing up the former All Black for a chance to represnet Tonga.

"I can't say," Fekitoa adds. "I'll wait and see."

The Monaco Olympic sevens qualifying tournament will be held from June 19-20 later this year.