Former All Blacks centre Malakai Fekitoa will move closer to representing Tonga at Test level when he represents the Pacific Island nation at next weekend’s Olympic Sevens qualifying tournament in Monaco.
Fekitoa is one of four ex-New Zealand and Australian internationals who have switched their rugby allegiance to Tonga.
The others are former Wallabies utility forward Lopeti Timani, ex-Australian Sevens international Afusipa Taumoepeau and Tima Fainga’anuku, who represented New Zealand at Sevens.
Fekitoa will join Tonga’s Sevens squad in Monaco after playing for Wasps in their last Premiership match against Leicester Tigers at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday.
The former Highlanders and Auckland star represented Tonga in Sevens before moving to New Zealand on a scholarship when he was 17 years old.
The 29-year-old, who was born on Hihifo in the Ha’apai Islands, made his All Blacks debut in 2014 and played the last of his 24 Tests during the British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand in 2017.
Players are allowed to switch their international allegiance by playing in an Olympic qualifying event, provided they possess a passport for the second country and have completed a stand down period of three years.
If he plays in 50 percent of Tonga’s games at the Olympic qualifying tournament in Monaco, Fekitoa will become eligible to play for Tonga’s national team.
He will not make his Test debut for Tonga when they face New Zealand in Auckland next month, however, due to global travel restrictions which includes a lack of available places in New Zealand’s Managed Isolation Quarantine facilities.
That means Fekitoa is only set to feature during the ‘Ikale Tahi’s end-of-year Tests in November.