By STEVE MASCORD
JACKSON Hastings and Ronaldo Mulitalo are among the players most affected by changes to the International Rugby League eligibility rules announced today.
The game’s international governing body has slightly tightened up laws governing which countries players represent, banning participants from switching between nations within a calendar year.
That means the changing of allegiances of Cronulla’s Mulitalo from the United States Nines team to the Samoan Oceania Cup squad within a matter of weeks last year will no longer be permitted.
But Wigan’s Hastings appears to have been effectively banned from ever representing Australia following his participation in last year’s Great Britain tour of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
Because Great Britain is not a ranked nation, it was thought he, Blake Austin and Lachlan Coote were not impinging upon their Australia credentials by turning out in the red, white and blue.
But the sixth point of the IRL media release reads: “Players cannot represent Australia or New Zealand if they have elected to represent Great Britain and vice versa.”
The rules are effective immediately.
Hastings was expected to graduate to the 13-a-side England line-up anyway, ending his green-and-gold prospects. Nines tournaments have now been included as tying a player to a country for at least a year.
A player is now tied for at least a year by being in 19-man national squad, rather than having actually played or been in the 17, which was the previous criteria.
Players whose eligibility falls completely outside the big three of Australia, New Zealand and England can only switch nations once in a four year period. Those who qualify for one of the big three and another nation or nations can still make multiple switches.
And the likes of Tonie Carroll will never be seen again, with the IRL reiterating stars can only represent one of the big three during their careers.
IRL global operations manager Danny Kazandjian said: “The eligibility rules were reviewed as a part of our ongoing process designed to keep our rules as relevant as possible. The changes still allow players options whilst enhancing the integrity of competitions and the international game.
“The board and the members recognise that international sport does not work without national and cultural identification, which is something very personal to individual players and their families. We do not want to put unnecessary obstacles in the way, but we also have to ensure that the whole process is properly and sensitively regulated.
“We are happy that these regulations meet that standard and, in a constantly changing environment, will be making a further review at the end of this year.”