Tonga Set to Unleash Seven Newly Qualified Superstars in Rugby World Cup 2023

The 2023 Rugby World Cup is quickly approaching and there are still plenty of exciting games to look forward to before the tournament begins. One of the intriguing storylines to follow is the players changing national teams, thanks to the new World Rugby eligibility rule changes. The rule allows players with a Test cap to represent a second eligible country if they, their parents, or grandparents were born in that country, which is a major change from the previous three-year hiatus rule. This change primarily benefits players who play for Tier 1 countries but qualify for Tier 2 countries, and could have a significant impact on the world of rugby.

One country that stands to benefit greatly from this rule change is Tonga, a South Pacific island nation that will welcome many world-class talents to its World Cup national team. Six highly talented former All Blacks and a controversial former Wallaby have already joined the team, including Vaea Fifita, Charles Piutau, Israel Folau, George Moala, Malakay Fequitoa, Tau Koloamatangi by Moana Pacifica, and Augustin Pul.

Vaea Fifita, Scarlets Rampage back rower, won 11 Test caps with the All Blacks from 2017 to 2019 before moving to Welsh side Scarlets. He will make his international debut for Tonga in 2022.

Charles Piutau, who was once the highest-paid player in the game, shocked the rugby world when he left New Zealand Rugby in 2015 to play for Wasps in the English Premiership. He has since played for Irish URC team Ulster and, most recently, Premiership side Bristol Bears. Piutau will be traded to Japan’s top league next season and makes his debut for Tonga in 2022.

Israel Folau is one of rugby’s most controversial figures but has won multiple caps and excelled in both rugby league and union, while also challenging Aussie rules. Folau’s contract with Rugby Australia was terminated in 2019 after a series of homophobic social media posts, but he briefly returned to rugby league before rejoining rugby union. With 73 appearances for the Wallabies, Folau is the most experienced international player on this list.

George Moala, a slugging center, is a four-time All Blacks player who has spent the past five seasons with French top-14 powerhouses Clermont-Auvergne. Moala first appeared for Tonga’s U20 side before moving to the All Blacks and now returns to the red jersey. A potential center partnership with Malakay Fequitoa could prove to be one of the best at the Rugby World Cup.

Malakay Fequitoa, the 2015 World Cup winner with New Zealand, is another player the All Blacks wanted to keep. Fequitoa has played in Europe’s top three leagues after spending time with premiership Wasps and URC finalists Munster. He will next play for Italian URC team Benetton and is set to have a strong central partnership with Moala at the World Cup.

Tau Koloamatangi by Moana Pacifica Pope Koloamatangi has played for New Zealand U20 before representing Hong Kong and now Tonga. He currently represents Super Rugby Pacific team Moana Pacifica and is set to anchor Tonga’s scrum.

Augustin Pul, a scrum-half powerhouse, played for the Chiefs and Blues in New Zealand Super Rugby and made two appearances for the All Blacks. He captained the Blues in 2018 and will provide key leadership as Tonga navigates a challenging World Cup pool.

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