Israel Folau, Charles Piutau and Malakai Fekitoa will make their return to international rugby this year, to play for Tonga.
The former All Black and Wallaby representatives were named in a team announcement by the Tonga Rugby Union today.
It is a historic moment for Pacific rugby, with eligibility rules now allowing Pacific Islanders players to play for their home countries.
‘Ikale Tahi head coach Toutai Kefu said the selection will make a huge difference to the quality of Tongan rugby.
Malakai Fekitoa at the Rugby World Cup. Photo: PHOTOSPORT
“It’s definitely going to make a difference and no disrespect to the players who have worn the jersey before, but the calibre of players coming through now is at a very high level so we are all looking forward to what they can do on the field and we have high expectations,” he said
It may be the beginning of more to come with the likes of George Moala, Sekope Kepu, Adam Coleman and Vaea Fifita set to gain eligibility later this year.
Kefu said it is watershed moment.
“I’ve already had conversations with them and they’ve shown a lot of interest. They qualify at the end of the year so will revisit those conversations. But you know, moving forward into the Rugby World Cup next year, it looks like it could quite possibly be the best Tongan team ever.”