Scrum-half Kieran Marmion will depart Connacht this summer after 11 years in Galway, with the Ireland international set to make the switch to Bristol Bears in the English Premiership.
Marmion has made over 200 appearances for Connacht during his time with the club, sitting third on their list of most-capped senior players, and was a starter when the team famously won the 2016 Pro12.
He will join Bristol in the summer - but his involvement with English rugby could go even further, depending on whether he avails of World Rugby's recently updated eligibility rules.
Marmion, who was born in England, could choose to switch nationalities and represent England in the coming months, provided World Rugby approve of the move.
Kieran Marmion could make England switch
World Rugby's international eligibility regulations changed in January 2021, allowing players to switch nationality at test level, even if they have previously been capped for their country.
The rules state:
A Player who has represented one Union may apply to represent a new Union provided that that the Player meets the eligibilty criteria...and at least three years have passed since the Player last represented their former Union; and the approval of World Rugby is obtained.
Kieran Marmion is eligible for England, having been born in Barking, and November 29 will mark three years since his last cap for Ireland, which came in an Autumn International against Georgia in Dublin.
Should Marmion choose to apply to World Rugby, he would be eligible to switch Unions, and declare for England at international level. Marmion has won 28 caps for Ireland, including three during the 2018 Grand Slam campaign, and that November's win over the All Blacks in Dublin.
He has since fallen down the pecking order, however, with Conor Murray, Jamison Gibson-Park, Craig Casey, and Luke McGrath all appearing to sit ahead of Kieran Marmion in the battle for Ireland's scrum-half slot. His move to Bristol will eliminate him from contention for the Ireland squad, due to the IRFU's policy of excluding overseas-based players from selection for the national team.
Of course, this would all depend on Marmion's desire to declare for England. He was born in England and raised in Wales, before signing for Connacht in 2012 after availing of the "IRFU Exiles System." His father is former Saracens centre Mick Marmion.
Connacht were coached to that famous 2012 Pro12 win by New Zealander Pat Lam, who will reunite with Marmion at Bristol Bears through his role as Director of Rugby. Speaking after Marmion's move to Bristol was announced, Lam said he believed Marmion should have won more caps for Ireland, though acknowledging the high quality of Ireland's squad depth:
Ireland, as we see now and even back in Joe Schmidt’s day, they are blessed with some quality players and I know that because I worked five years with those guys and I knew the talent was coming through.
Anyone who gets capped for Ireland, similar to the All Blacks the way Irish rugby is at the minute, it’s a real success story because of the competition for places. Do I believe he could have got more? Without a doubt. I thought he was good enough at that stage and he is still on top of his game there.