Suliasi Vunivalu set for Wallabies return after long injury layoff
Cross-code star Suliasi Vunivalu is set to return to the Wallabies squad after a lengthy sideline spell with a hamstring injury.
Speaking to media in Brisbane on Wednesday, Vunivalu revealed he is a matter of weeks away from returning to the Wallabies camp after missing out on selection for the July test series against France and the Rugby Championship due to an injury he picked up while playing for the Reds in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman.
“I’m probably just a couple of weeks off, so if I can pass a couple of fitness tests, I’ll be back with the whole squad,” the former NRL Premiership-winner said.
“At the moment, I’m just focusing on getting my hamstring right and getting back my speed. I’ve got to keep working hard, and if I do get in, I’ll take it.”
The 25-year-old is yet to debut for the Wallabies since crossing over from rugby league following last year’s NRL campaign, where he signed off on a five-year spell with the Melbourne Storm.
During that time, Vunivalu scored 86 tries in 111 appearances, won two NRL Premierships and represented Fiji in eight test matches, but he is yet to enjoy such success in rugby union.
While he impressed in his debut season with the Reds, scoring five tries in seven outings, Vunivalu’s campaign was marred by an assault charge in January, which was eventually dropped last month, in addition to his hamstring issue.
However, the Fijian-born wing’s potential in the XV-man code is immense, and that was reflected when Wallabies boss Dave Rennie rushed him into the national squad in a non-playing capacity for the latter stages of last year’s Tri-Nations.
As Vunivalu alluded to, Rennie is expected to call on the former St Kentigern College 1st XV sensation in similar fashion when the Wallabies relocate to Queensland for the rest of the Rugby Championship after this week’s clash with the All Blacks in Perth.
Without Vunivalu’s services thus far this year, Rennie has used the likes of Filipo Daugunu, Jordan Petaia, Tom Wright, Andrew Kellaway and Marika Koroibete, an ex-teammate of Vunivalu’s at the Storm, on the wing.
Vunivalu said he’s excited by what his teammates have offered up out wide in their tests against France and the All Blacks in recent months, and is eager to don the green and gold jersey for the first time against either the Springboks or Los Pumas in the coming weeks.
“We have a really young backline squad there. We’re really excited with what he’s planned for the team, so, like I said, if I do get in, I’ll take it with both hands.”
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Given his Fijian heritage, Vunivalu said he will take particular interest in the Fijian Drua, which will be based in Queensland in its debut campaign due to ongoing Covid-19 concerns in Fiji.
“It’s really good. It’s good to have that different game style. We had New Zealand this year with Super Rugby Aotearoa and Super [Rugby] AU combined, and with that coming along with Moana and Fijian Drua, it’s going to be really exciting,” he said.
“Good to start those footy skills from those Fijians. I’m really excited for them, especially for my home country, so it’ll be good. I’m looking forward to it.”
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