Pacific Championships 2023: Mal Meninga calls for NRL to end dual international eligibility rule

Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga has called for international eligibility rules to be overhauled to stop NRL stars switching between nations.

Although it could be argued international game in rugby league has never been stronger with the emergence of Tonga and Samoa, the Aussie coach has called for an end to players picking and choosing.

And a prime example will line up against the Kangaroos as of the weekend.

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New Zealand-born North Queensland winger Murray Taulagi represented Australia during the 2022 World Cup campaign, played all three State of Origin matches for Queensland and scored a try in the Australian Prime Minister’s XIII 30-18 win over PNG in September, but will play for Samoa in the opening match of the Pacific Championship on Saturday.

This is not to say Taulagi has done anything wrong.

But the Aussie coach and rugby league Immortal has had enough of the players being able to jump from nation to nation, calling for players to declare their allegiance at the start of their careers.

“I don’t believe guys should be able to go back and forth (between countries),” Meninga said.

“What I would like to see is that every player nominates which country they want to play for right from their first registration in the NRL.

“That way, there is no confusion around who they are eligible for.

“When they make the NRL and they have to make a tough decision on Test football, they have to make one call.”

Currently, players can switch countries between tier-one (Australia, England and New Zealand) and tier-two nations (Tonga, Samoa, France and Papua New Guinea).

This has seen the likes of former Australian representative Andrew Fifita and New Zealand hulk Jason Taumalolo change countries to represent Tonga.

However, Meninga said it shouldn’t impact State of Origin, saying he had no issues with the likes of Tualagi, Jarome Luai, Brian To’o and Stephen Crichton playing State of Origin.

“Everyone in Australia has some ancestry except for the First Nations people, we all come from different parts of the world,” he said.

“I believe if you are born in Australia and born in NSW or Queensland, you should be eligible for State of Origin.

“I have no issue with Jarome Luai for example playing for Samoa and NSW … as long as he is eligible.”

Taulagi sledged Meninga on the eve of the Pacific Cup, saying he chose Samoa because he wanted to “be under a coach that wanted me”.

Josh Addo-Carr had originally been selected in the 21-man squad but was stood down after he earned a two-match suspension for his role in a brawl at the Koori Knockout.

Meninga said the Kangaroos selectors “had Josh Addo-Carr selected in the squad ahead of Murray”.

“If Murray was happy playing for Samoa, we were happy for him to go,” he added.

Taulagi also said that while he was representing Australia, he was dreaming of playing for Samoa.

He added: “I didn’t really speak to Mal (Meninga). I just made the decision that I wanted to come and play here and I haven’t heard from Mal since.”

Meninga said he didn’t reach out because Taulagi was already selected for Samoa, even though he was the shadow for Addo-Carr, a position which was taken by Panthers premiership fullback Dylan Edwards.

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