Wed, May 18, 2016 - Page 18 News List

Jarryd Hayne eligible to represent Fiji in world series, Olympics: World Rugby

AP, WELLINGTON

Former San Francisco 49ers running back Jarryd Hayne is eligible to play for the Fiji rugby sevens team at the Olympics and as early as the world series event in London this weekend, World Rugby said on Monday.

Hayne, who played eight times with one start for the 49ers as a rookie last year, on Sunday announced he was quitting the NFL.

The 28-year-old former rugby league star said he was joining Fiji in the hope of making its squad for the Rio de Janeiro Games. Hayne qualifies for Fiji through his Fijian father, and has played international rugby league for the Pacific nation.

However, questions have been raised over his eligibility, because he has not recently been part of a registered drug-testing program.

Former Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority chair Richard Ings on Monday expressed doubts that Hayne would be able to make an immediate transition to rugby, because the NFL was not compliant with World Anti-Doping Agency testing requirements.

Ings said World Rugby required a player to be in a registered drug-testing pool for six months before becoming eligible to play in its sanctioned tournaments.

Ings said rugby’s six-month return to competition rule “is standard across most sports for athletes returning to international competition. And necessary.”

“The rule equally applies to reinstatement or to new players. Sensibly it must, or any NFL player could bulk up and play,” he added.

However, World Rugby said in a statement on Monday that the six-month rule does not apply to a player “if they are being selected for international competition for the first time.”

“This position is entirely consistent with World Rugby’s approach to other crossover athletes, including other ex-NFL athletes coming into rugby,” it added.

The statement, which did not mention the fact Hayne previously played rugby league at the international level, appeared to refer to the New England Patriots’ Nate Ebner, who played for the US in the Singapore Sevens in March.

Still contracted to the Patriots, Ebner received their permission to chase his Olympic dream.

“Hayne would be eligible for the London round of the world rugby sevens series subject to all other regulatory and registration matters being met,” World Rugby said.

Hayne was due to join Fiji’s 14-man sevens squad in London on Monday.

Coach Ben Ryan said he would use the days ahead of the London tournament, the last of 10 stops in the series, to pare the squad to 12 men for the London event and the Olympic Games.

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