Freez­ing out Pi­u­tau blight on the game

World Rugby not play­ing fair ex­tend­ing stand-down

The New Zealand Herald - - Super Sport - by Wynne Gray

Look in the mir­ror World Rugby. Ask your­self if you want what is best for the game. Run the ques­tion again. Would you rather pro­tect the ma­jor na­tions or en­cour­age those who are on the fringes of caus­ing upset re­sults?

The im­age is clear but the mes­sage re­mains mud­dled es­pe­cially if you iso­late an ex­am­ple such as Charles Pi­u­tau who played 17 tests for the All Blacks — the last in July 2015 — be­fore jet­ting away to sup­port an ex­tended fam­ily net­work with con­tracts in Europe.

He has waited on the in­ter­na­tional side­lines for three years and is now qual­i­fied to play for Tonga.

That would be the sen­si­ble ap­pli­ca­tion of the stand-down rule but in their wis­dom, WR at­tached an­other fish-hook be­fore some­one like Pi­u­tau can wrig­gle away to life in new in­ter­na­tional waters.

He has to play in an Olympic sevens tour­na­ment to qual­ify for a scar­let Ton­gan jersey at next year’s World Cup in Ja­pan and there are no more of those events be­fore the 2019 World Cup. There’s no dis­pen­sa­tion avail­able for Pi­u­tau or oth­ers who find them­selves caught in a sim­i­lar in­ter­na­tional limbo.

In the in­terim, WR has re­worked the idea and pushed the stand-down time out to five years to stop, in their view, oth­ers look­ing to find con­ve­nient al­le­giances. So sorry Charles, pick up your ball and go back to club rugby be­cause we don’t want you or oth­ers bol­ster­ing the ranks of those pesky Pa­cific Is­land na­tions or re­turn­ing to boost Ge­or­gia or Ro­ma­nia.

In­ter­na­tional coaches share a com­mon pas­sion to get the best out of their sides and see how they com­pare against top teams.

No one wants play­ers bor­der-hop­ping with an­nual fre­quency in an at­tempt to cre­ate that com­pe­ti­tion and three years on the outer al­lows a change of cir­cum­stances and also puts pres­sure on play­ers around their play­ing choices.

Telling play­ers to cool their in­ter­na­tional jets for five years is ex­ces­sive and detri­men­tal to the sport. But who ever claimed WR was in touch with the real world?

You have to think there’s a le­gal chal­lenge brew­ing around some­one like Pi­u­tau, for some na­tion to pick up the cause and run with it. It would be nice to think so but the te­dious is­sues of time and money are a mas­sive im­ped­i­ment. It’s tough enough for fi­nan­cial­lytrou­bled coun­tries to or­gan­ise a World Cup cam­paign with­out en­ter­ing the purg­ing economies of le­gal in­quiries.

All of us change our minds and if play­ers nom­i­nate a change of el­i­gi­bil­ity, three years with­out any spe­cial con­di­tions is long enough for any­one to be on the side­lines.

Photo / Pho­to­sport

Charles Pi­u­tau has lit­tle to cel­e­brate thanks to World Rugby.

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