Parramatta Eels forward Marata Niukore is set to be allowed to play at the Rugby League World Cup thanks to the bending of an eligibility rule.

Under the International Rugby League rules surrounding the eligibility of players who can represent more than one nation, Niukore ruled himself out of the tournament by playing for New Zealand earlier this year, while having previously played for the Cook Islands in a World Cup qualifier during 2019.

One part of the eligibility rules states that players may not switch nations during a tournament, which includes the qualifying stage.

However, Niukore couldn't play for the Cook Islands either under another part of the rules, which state players may not switch nations within a single calendar year.

The Parramatta forward played for the Kiwis earlier this year in the mid-year Test against Tonga in Auckland.

However, Kiwis coach Michael Maguire has revealed to that the rule has been allowed to slide by the IRL for Niukore to play in the tournament, to kick-off in England during mid-October.

“He played a qualifying game three years ago for the Cook Islands and there is a rule that if you’ve played in a qualifying game, you couldn’t then play for another country (at a World Cup),” Maguire told the publication.

“Marata had no idea of that rule at the time. He had the opportunity to play [for Cook Islands]. Probably wasn’t as established as he is now as a first-grader, so he went and played.

“Fast forward to this year’s midyear test. Marata had knowledge that if he played in that test, there was every chance he wouldn’t play in the World Cup.

“But we were very fortunate that the committee for the World Cup looked at that situation, looked at the human side of things and allowed him now to be qualified to be able to play for New Zealand.”

New Zealand are in Group C alongside Jamaica, Lebanon and Ireland.


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