All Black star Ardie Savea says the chance to represent Samoa was the main reason he is considering a surprise switch to rugby league.
Samoa could have the All Black flanker playing for Toa Samoa by the next Rugby League World Cup held in England between 23 October and 27 November 2021.
Born in Wellington to Samoan parents, Savea says league has more favourable eligibility rules and has openly spoken out against the inflexibility of World Rugby.
“A big part of why I wanted to go to league was because I could play for Samoa because of the rules. So that’s been a thing that’s pondered my mind”, says Savea.
“[I’ve] been following hard out on the World Rugby rules. For me it’s how proud the Samoan people are and I know how much Samoans give to rugby internationally.. I can see the look on my old man’s face if he knew that I was going to play for Samoa.
Rugby League players are permitted to switch between Tier 1 and Tier 2 nations so long as they are eligible. An application of this flexibility allowed Jason Taumalolo to play for Tonga in the 2017 World Cup.
In an interview on the ‘Ice Project’ podcast with former Kiwi half Isaac John, the Rugby World Cup Player of the Year nominee said he wanted to play in the NRL.
The 26-year-old loose forward repeated this on the ‘Staf Chat’ podcast with TAB’s Mark Stafford, saying that the opportunity to honour his Samoan heritage was a huge incentive to make the move.
“This might blow-up. I thought of rugby league. I thought of giving that a crack, but a massive one for me is that I would love to play for Samoa,” he told Stafford.
Savea, who has played 44 test matches for New Zealand since his debut in 2016 is contracted to NZ Rugby until the end of the 2021 season.
Recovering from knee injury, the Hurricanes star said he was inspired to make the switch after playing alongside SBW for New Zealand.
“100% [I want to play rugby league],” Savea said.
Savea’s announcement has sparked interest among NRL clubs with the loose forward being likely to fit the mould of a second-rower in the NRL.
If Savea follows through with his interest, he will be the biggest name convert from Union to the NRL