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IRB: Olympic eligibility loophole not to be abused

September 9, 2014

LONDON (AP) — The International Rugby Board will not allow abuse of a new loophole in eligibility for the 2016 Olympics that lets players switch national allegiance.

The recently created qualifying rule for sevens’ Olympic debut means players with dual nationality, who have not represented a national team for 18 months, can apply to change nations provided they play for the new nation’s sevens team in the 2014-15 sevens world series.

The player would then become eligible for the Rugby World Cup next year and the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Steffon Armitage is reportedly considering his options with France because England won’t pick anyone based overseas, and other cases include Wallabies great George Smith considering Tonga, and former All Blacks Isaia Toeava and Tim Nanai-Williams regarding Samoa.

But all transfers have to be vetted by the IRB, and the governing body will block any attempt to exploit the loophole, chief executive Brett Gosper warned on Tuesday.

“There is a safety net, and any transfer will have to be passed by the committee,” Gosper said.

“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 abvious 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.

“But players will move in both codes by coming into the sevens game - that will happen.”

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