Former All Black Fekitoa joining Tonga 'for right reasons'

Source: 1News

Former All Black Malakai Fekitoa said he hopes to show professional rugby players it's fine to play for "tier two" nations at a Test level with his allegiance switch.

Malakai Fekitoa is tackled while representing Tonga at the Olympic Sevens qualifiers.

Fekitoa used an existing World Rugby loophole involving Tonga's Sevens team earlier this year to make his switch to his Pacific roots, but following the change in eligibility rules being introduced next year, a lot more players will be able to join him more easily.

The 29-year-old played 24 Tests for the All Blacks until 2017 but has since been plying his trade in Europe, hoping to one day represent his homeland.

Fekitoa told Rugby Journal magazine now that his wish has come true, he has plenty of support from around the rugby community.

"The guys in the current (All Black) team are supporting my decision," Fekitoa said.

"They wish me well and they are all happy for me. A lot of them are islanders as well."

Fekitoa made his Tonga return with the Sevens team as they tried to qualify for the Olympics earlier this year. He captained the side in Monaco but was unable to reach Tokyo.

"After all these years it felt the same. The whole place, how they treated us, the whole environment," he said.

"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."

Regardless of the results, the short time back reminded him what it meant to put on the red jersey.

"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 said he hopes those reasons can inspire others to follow suit and embrace long careers with smaller unions.

"I wanted to come out and lead the way, so hopefully they follow that," he said.

"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 ten years left in the game and you can use that to inspire another generation."