NRL to help Pacific nations by reforming Origin eligibility rules

The NRL is set to review its international and State of Origin eligibility rules, in an effort to boost the development of the Pacific island nations as viable national teams.

NRL game-integration boss Andrew Hill has confirmed that the rules, which were last amended in 2012, would be looked at in the wake of a successful weekend of Test rugby.

The new rules would allow players with heritage links to Pacific nations to have dual-eligibility for their heritage nations and their State of Origin.

Their eligibility for the heritage nations would only end if they were picked for a tier-one nation, in the shape of Australia, New Zealand or England.

Under existing rules, players are allowed one change of country per World Cup cycle.

“We need to review all aspects of the rep weekend and one of those things is the eligibility rules,” Hill told Brisbane paper The Courier-Mail.

“By most measures it was a brilliant weekend of representative football and it highlighted the passion NRL players have in their Pacific heritage.

“The eligibility rules are complex, that’s the challenge, but we want a balance between opportunity for NRL players and the integrity of the representative teams.

“We want to see the Pacific nations get stronger which would be wonderful for international football.”

Queensland and Papua New Guinea coach Mal Meninga is reportedly being consulted about the review.

The issue affected Meninga when he tried to pick PNG-born full-back David Mead for the Kumuls last weekend.

As Mead had already played for Country Origin last year, he was not allowed to play for PNG.

A similar situation affected Samoa‘s Anthony Milford, who couldn’t play in the Test for Samoa against Tonga because he represented Queensland in the under-20 Origin clash last season.

Samoa coach Matt Parish would welcome the changes, which would allow him to select a stronger squad for Test matches.

“If we play more games, we can compete and we need guys who will be eligible to play,” Parish said.

“There’s a couple of things we’re hoping may come off but nothing official at this stage.

“The Samoan Rugby League can’t do it without the help of the NRL. For our nations to develop, we need to play regularly against leading nations and we need our best players to compete.’’

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