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Rugby Australia 'disappointed' but not concerned by Nawaqanitawase's defection

By AAP
Mark Nawaqanitawase of Australia looks on during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between Australia and Georgia at Stade de France on September 09, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Flying Wallabies winger Mark Nawaqanitawase will switch codes to join the NRL’s Sydney Roosters from 2025, Rugby Australia have confirmed.

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Nawaqanitawase, who has won 11 caps for Australia since making his debut on last year’s tour of Europe, will join the Roosters on a two-year deal.

The defection of one of their brightest rising stars is a big loss for Rugby Australia (RA) at a time when the code is under increasing scrutiny following a hugely disappointing World Cup campaign.

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“We are disappointed, Mark has been a strong player over the last 12 months,” RA chief executive Phil Waugh said in a statement on Thursday.

“However, the outside backs are a position of strength for us, with great depth coming through.

“We are confident we are well-stocked with talented wingers for the future.”

Despite the player not moving to rugby league until the season after next, RA appeared to close the door on him appearing for the Wallabies in the interim.

“Rugby Australia wishes to thank Nawaqanitawase for his efforts in his 11 Test appearances, as well as for the Waratahs and the Australia Sevens team at the Commonwealth Games,” the organisation said in a statement.

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The silver lining is that the winger’s two-year contract with the Roosters offers the possibility of a return to rugby union ahead of the World Cup in Australia in 2027.

His code-switch will prevent him from facing the British and Irish Lions in 2025.

Nawaqanitawase’s move follows months of back and forth between RA and the Roosters, who were furious when Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii was wooed to rugby union by recently ousted RA chairman Hamish McLennan.

RA also tried to sign Roosters back-rower Angus Crichton but that move fell over after the Origin forward’s camp became increasingly frustrated with the governing body’s negotiating tactics.

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Eabn 7 hours ago
Open-minded Schmidt takes hands-on approach to Australia challenge

Who cares - boring is good when it comes to Media - they don’t bug you as much. While the focus is on the resurrection of the Wallabies, don’t forget the grass roots - Any opportunity you have to visit, train or promote Rugby down here in Melbourne / Regional is pretty much imperative given the current situation with the Rebels. I’m talking about us grass roots clubs and more so, clubs in the West of Melbourne who are being absolutely smashed by Rugby League and who have been contributing directly to the game down here long before the Rebels emerged and no doubt will do so well after they may be gone. All I have heard is all about the elite level, not the grass roots level so while the talk is about “ The Wallabies” and “Super Rugby Pacific” get back to the roots of Union and include us in your plans. So Phil Waugh and those leaders within RugbyAustralia, it’s on you to ensure the bottom feeders, so to speak, are included in all the talk and the funding if you want Union to regain ground and more respect within the Union and also the broader sporting fraternity. Given you have been in Melbourne a number off times over the last month, extending the courtesy of having a meet and greet with Victorian grass root clubs eluded you for some reason. Do we count or matter in RA’s and yours bigger picture?? Ean Drummond - Club Founder/President - Wyndham City Rhinos RUFC Inc. Hoppers Crossing, Melbourne.

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