John Campbell investigates: Odds stacked against Pacific minnows like Manu Samoa at Rugby World Cup

Europe's rugby powerhouses are not behind the idea of players being able to represent more than one Test playing nation, NZ Rugby CEO Steve Tew says.

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Manu Samoa were once the darlings of international rugby but now many players are turning down the chance to represent their nations to keep big money contracts in Europe, and secure their futures. Source: Sunday

At present, World Rugby's eligibility laws restrict players from representing more than one nation after making their Test debut.

In some cases, this has left players in international exile, unable to be selected for a nation that they have legitimate ties to, and unselected for their adopted country.

Former Blues first-five Ica Nacewa is one such example, unable to represent the All Blacks after playing two minutes for Fiji in the 2003 Rugby World Cup.

Former All Black Charles Piutau is another, his chances of playing for Tonga at this year's World Cup in Japan dashed by the current laws.

The current laws state that a player must sit out a three-year stand-down period from international rugby, while also representing their second country at an Olympic qualifying Sevens tournament.

Speaking to TVNZ's Sunday, Tew explained that New Zealand Rugby have in the past tried to make the eligibility laws more flexible, allowing for greater freedom of players representing nations of birth or heritage.

Those attempts were quashed though, with the major European Six Nations sides reluctant to loosen the current system.

"It was a wee while ago now," Tew began.

"That was to allow players that had played for tier one countries, that had a close and legitimate link to a tier two nation to be able to play for that country. We fought pretty hard for that, but didn't get it across the line.

"The Six Nations countries are reasonably against that, which is ironic because they're not slow to adopt players with [eligible] grandparents themselves."

England in the past have benefited from players making use of eligibility laws, with the likes of Kiwi-born Dylan Hartley and Samoan Manu Tuilagi among those to turn out for another side.

Ireland meanwhile have awarded Kiwis Jared Payne and Bundee Aki the chance to play Test rugby through residency, while New Zealand-born Gareth Anscombe qualifies to play for Wales through his Cardiff-born mother.

Tew is critical of the approach that has and continues to benefit the northern superpowers.

"We saw Brad Shields, and Willie Heinz has just been picked in the [England] World Cup squad. Interesting that they would do that."

"You could be cynical and say that they're just trying to protect the sanctity of international rugby and the value of the jersey - which we understand too, and are obviously important to ourselves."

New Zealand Rugby though, are behind the idea of players switching allegiance to a second-tier side, once their chances with their first represented side may be over.

"The reality for us, is that we look at - particularly our three Pacific neighbours - and we say that they're strong rugby countries, but their economy, their size is always going to be a handicap.

"No matter what we do, we're not going to make the Samoan economy any bigger than it is. So if we want them to be a legitimate chance to be quarter-finalists at the next Rugby World Cup, we need to find some sort of circuit breaker.

"We thought that was a reasonable circuit breaker to use, but with a legitimate and close credible link to that country."