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- Tongan-New Zealand rugby union player
Tonga centre Malakai Fekitoa hopes that other players can follow his lead and help the Pacific Island nations become a real force in the game.
The Wasps back is a former All Black, earning 24 caps for the national team, but took the step to represent ‘Ikale Tahi after realising his chance to play for New Zealand again had gone.
Fekitoa used the old loophole to switch allegiances but World Rugby have recently changed the eligibility law to make it easier to represent another nation.
It theoretically should aid the Pacific Islanders and the 29-year-old believes that others could follow suit.
Leading the way
“I wanted to come out and lead the way, so hopefully they follow that,” Fekitoa told the Rugby Journal. “I understand some guys are Kiwi at heart, or Australian born and raised, but if you haven’t played 100 games, why don’t you switch? Especially some very talented guys under 30.
“It’s okay to play for tier two nations and it’s okay to change. You can use your talent when you are still young.
“You are under 30, you have still got 10 years left in the game and you can use that to inspire another generation.”
Fekitoa also revealed that his ex-All Black team-mates have backed his decision to switch from New Zealand to Tonga.
“The guys in the current (All Black) team are supporting my decision,” he said. “They wish me well and they are all happy for me. A lot of them are islanders as well.
“There are a lot of Tongans in the current team and Samoans and they know what it is like. They know it is all about the families and the culture. I don’t gain anything from going back – we don’t get paid a lot of money or anything.
“But I am going for the right reason, to give back, and I think those guys are happy for me.”
Fekitoa has played for Tonga before – in the Wellington Sevens at the age of 16 and then in the Monaco Sevens last year – but his Test debut in XVs has been delayed because of injury.
He added: “After all these years it felt the same. The whole place, how they treated us, the whole environment.
“It is still the Tonga boys. Island guys, laid back, some of them never on time. The feeling was the same but for myself, I feel a lot of responsibilities now.”
The article Malakai Fekitoa hoping to inspire others to follow his path appeared first on Planetrugby.com.