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Nanai-Williams, Toeava look to Samoa

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Tim Nanai Williams. Isaia Toeava.

Sources close to World Cup-winning All Black Isaia Toeava confirm he has been in contact with Samoan rugby officials but he declined to comment when contacted by ONE News.

TVNZ - A handful of former All Blacks have confirmed to ONE News they will make themselves available to represent Pacific Island nations at next year's World Cup in England.

A change in eligibility laws, put in place due to the inclusion of rugby sevens at the Olympics, will allow players who have played test rugby at any level for one nation, to represent another if they hold that nation's passport.

Providing they haven't played an international in 18 months, they can participate in the Sevens World Series or designated Regional Olympic Qualification Tournaments and become eligible to play for that same nation in all forms of rugby.

Former All Blacks Anthony Tuitavake, Sam Tuitupou and ex-Wallabies Mark Gerrard and Sitaleki Timani will lodge an application to play for Tonga under Regulation 8 in the IRB Handbook.

Former All Blacks Sevens representatives Alando Soakai, Lifeimi Mafi and Roy Kinikinilau are also on board for the Ikale Tahi while Tim Nanai-Williams has confirmed his intentions to play for Manu Samoa.

Sources close to World Cup-winning All Black Isaia Toeava confirm he has been in contact with Samoan rugby officials but he declined to comment when contacted by ONE News.

Tonga Rugby Union chairman Epi Taione said the revamped laws are being welcomed throughout the Pacific and expects more prominent players to switch their allegiance in the coming weeks.

He says a "hit list" has been put together with Wallabies great George Smith, whose mother is Tongan, a major target along with Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna and former Australia A and Waratahs first-five Daniel Halangahu.

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"So far it's been very positive from every single player so we're quite chuffed about the response we've had so far," said Taione.

Tuitavake, who plays for Montpellier in the French Top 14, said the changes are a hot topic among former internationals now playing in lucrative club competitions in Europe and Japan.

"Since hearing about this loophole that the IRB has made, us ex-New Zealand players that are playing abroad are very keen to switch," he said.

Other former All Blacks who could make the switch include Casey Laulala, Chris Masoe, Lelia Masaga and Mose Tuiali'i who are of

Samoan heritage while cousins Joe Rokocoko and Sitiveni Sivivatu were born in Fiji.

While players may have trouble seeking a release from their respective clubs, Taione is hopeful most of his players will be available for the Oceania Regional Sevens Championships, which also count as an Olympic qualification event.

The new laws are unlikely to transform the Pacific Island nations into World Cup-winners overnight but it could increase the chances of more upsets such as those achieved by Samoa and Tonga against Australia and France in 2011.

"It's the biggest positive news in my time as a player and now as an administrator for Tonga," Taione said.

"We have been close but rugby is moving and we have to be on our toes and change with the times."

"These guys being available for us is huge news for Tongan rugby."

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