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Wallaby Filipo Daugunu returns to Reds after stint with Rebels

By Finn Morton
Filipo Daugunu of the Rebels looks to pass during the round 12 Super Rugby Pacific match between Queensland Reds and Melbourne Rebels at Suncorp Stadium, on May 10, 2024, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

The Queensland Reds have announced their second off-season signing of the week after revealing that Wallabies utility Filipo Daugunu will return to the club on a one-year deal.

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Daugunu played 69 Super Rugby games over a six year span with the Reds before moving south to pursue an opportunity with the Melbourne Rebels in 2024. The 29-year-old started 12 matches at outside centre and one on the wing during a promising individual campaign.

After some time away from the national team, the seven-Test Wallaby has been rewarded for a strong season with the Melburnians by Australia coach Joe Schmidt. Schmidt included Daugunu in the Wallabies’ 38-man squad ahead of their July internationals.

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But before those Tests get underway when the Wallabies host Warren Gatland’s Wales in Sydney next weekend, Daugunu has locked in his playing plans for the next season after penning a deal to return to Ballymore.

“Queensland is home for me. It’s where it all started,” Daugunu said in a statement. “For me to come back, I’m honoured to be here. There will be a lot of familiar faces. I’m happy.”

When Daugunu was thrown into the Super Rugby cauldron for the first time back in 2018, the utility was exclusively seen as a winger for quite some time. Daugunu played 11 matches on the right wing in 14 appearances for the club that year.

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That trend continued for quite some time until the Reds’ quarter-final loss to the Chiefs in Hamilton last year. After six years at the club, that fixture played under then-coach Brad Thorn was the first time Daugunu started at outside centre for the Reds.

But after changing positions with Kevin Foote’s Rebels this year, Daugunu will return to the Sunshine State was a more versatile player.

“For me, it was a good chance to go to Melbourne. I played a lot at outside centre and enjoyed the defensive role where you read the play by connecting with your inside centre and the winger on the outside,” Daugunu explained.

“I’ve spent most of my career playing on the wing. I’m happy to play the position where I’m needed.

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“The news has been tough for the Rebels but you have to move on.”

Daugunu scored 22 tries during his first stint with the Queensland club before going on to score a handful for the Rebels. They’re some promising numbers from the utility as the Reds continue to build their squad under coach Les Kiss.

Hunter Paisami and Josh Flook are the incumbents in the Reds’ midfield and both men have been named in Joe Schmidt’s Australia squad along with Daugunu. That presents a good selection headache for the coach to have going into next season.

“It’s fantastic that Filipo has returned to Queensland,” Les Kiss added. “He’s much respected and we’re really pleased he has chosen to come home.

“He gives us great cover in the midfield and outside backs.”

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finn 6 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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