Rugby: Tonga coach Toutai Kefu pleads for change in eligibility rules as World Rugby meet to vote on proposal

Tonga coach Toutai Kefu is imploring World Rugby to "see some sense", as it votes on changing eligibility laws in a major shift in the test rugby landscape.

World Rugby meets this week to consider drastically altering current eligibility laws to boost tier two nations, most notably Pacific sides like Tonga, Fiji and Samoa.

The proposal would change criteria to allow players to switch test nations, provided they serve a three-year stand-down period, and have a parent or grandparent born in the country they want to play for.

Currently, any player changing their international allegiance must observe a four-year stand-down, hold a current passport for their new country and also compete in an Olympic sevens qualifying tournament.

Former All Black Malakai Fekitoa completed the process earlier this year, while ex-teammate Charles Piutau was denied the chance, due to English club commitments. 

Should the change take place, Tonga could field a team containing Fekitoa and Piutau, as well as fellow ex-All Blacks Ngani Laumape and Vaea Fifita.

Earlier this year, after his under-strength side fell 102-0 to the All Blacks, Kefu asserted what a change in eligibility laws would do for his Tonga team.

Kefu tells RNZ that the change would see Tonga able to compete with nations that benefit from a problematic residency rule, which allows European nations benefit from foreign-born players.

"We're hoping that they can see some sense in the reasons for doing this," he says.

"If you look at all the Scottish teams and Welsh teams now, they're qualifying players through residency. There's a lot of Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans playing for the home unions.

"Have a look at the Japanese team. We're just talking about Tongans playing for Tonga.

"I think all of us in Tonga, certainly myself and everyone in administration and governance, we've got our fingers crossed for this decision that's going to be made in the next couple of days. 

"That's a really important decision for us and if it goes our way, they should call it a national holiday, I reckon."

Tonga are still to seal a spot at the next Rugby World Cup in France, and will face off against Hong Kong, Malaysia or South Korea in the Asia-Pacific playoff.