Former Australia winger Drew Mitchell has offered his take on the decision by Dave Rennie to call recent union convert Suliasi Vunivalu into the Wallabies squad for the remainder of the Tri-Nations. The winger is fresh from a recent NRL grand final victory with the Melbourne Storm and although his cross-code switch to the Reds was long expected, he has been fast-tracked into the national squad. 

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This hasn’t necessarily been a popular decision amongst Wallabies fans, with many thinking that it does not send a good message calling a player up so soon even though he has experience playing union. 

In the ongoing battle between the two codes, some have suggested that former NRL players are essentially guaranteed to play for the Wallabies, regardless of whether they have proved themselves already. 

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But Mitchell’s view is that Vunivalu will not feature over the coming weeks for Australia under Rennie. Instead, he believes it is a shrewd move by the head coach which allows the 24-year-old the opportunity to start training as soon as possible ahead of the 2021 Super Rugby season for the Reds. 

The Aussie Rugby Show host said: “My guess is the Wallabies are getting Vunivalu into camp just to get him training for union as early as possible instead of starting fresh in 2021. He won’t play this year but will gain plenty of knowledge… smart play from Rennie.”

The Wallabies took a similar approach with Marika Koroibete in 2016, who also teamed up with the national team weeks after playing for the Melbourne Storm in the NRL grand final, albeit after losing on that occasion. 

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Koroibete had to wait almost a year before he made his Test debut, which may well also be the case for fellow winger Vunivalu. Both players had the experience of union before their league careers, with Vunivalu even part of the Blues development squad in his youth. Their careers in union could now follow a similar pattern.

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