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Uncapped Wallabies cross-code star Suliasi Vunivalu confirms playing future

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

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After much speculation about whether he will stay in rugby union or return to rugby league, uncapped Wallabies star Suliasi Vunivalu has confirmed his playing future.

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Rugby Australia [RA] announced on Tuesday that Vunivalu has inked a one-season contract extension with the national union at the Queensland Rugby Union in a deal that will keep him in rugby union until after next year’s World Cup.

In doing so, the 26-year-old has rejected a possible return to rugby league, where numerous NRL clubs – including the new Redcliffe Dolphins side – were reportedly circling for his signature.

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Instead, the two-time NRL Premiership winner, who scored 86 tries in 111 matches for the Melbourne Storm between 2016 and 2020, will remain with RA and the Reds next season as he eyes a place at the 2023 World Cup in France.

“I’m really excited to re-sign with Queensland and Australian rugby,” Vunivalu said in a statement.

“I’m enjoying my time at Ballymore with the Reds. I’ve made a lot of good friends here and I have enjoyed learning from someone who also has experience in both codes in Brad Thorn.

“I still have a lot to learn, but Queensland is the best place for me to reach the next level.

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“Playing in a World Cup for Australia was a big reason I made the move to rugby last year and I’ll be doing my best to hopefully achieve that goal.

“I’m looking forward to learning more over the next few months in Wallabies camp and taking that back to the Reds in 2023.”

Vunivalu has endured a disrupted experience in rugby union since switching codes a year-and-a-half ago, with hamstring injuries and off-field legal issues restricting his on-field performances.

As such, an expected Wallabies debut is yet to come to fruition, but that should change over the coming weeks after an injury-free Vunivalu produced a string of compelling Super Rugby Pacific performances to earn selection in the current Wallabies squad.

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One of six wing options in Dave Rennie’s squad ahead of July’s three-test series against England, Vunivalu could make his rugby union test debut as early as next week, when the Wallabies host the English in Perth on July 2.

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In doing so, he would become a dual international after having scored 12 tries in eight tests for Fiji during his time in rugby league.

Rennie spoke highly of Vunivalu on Tuesday, labelling his re-signing with RA and the Reds as “a massive positive” for all parties.

“Having Suli re-sign is a massive positive for all supporters of Australian rugby,” Rennie said via a statement.

“He’s an incredible athlete with huge potential and having him in the Wallabies squad is only going to accelerate his development.

“His ability in the air is phenomenal and we’ve been impressed with his work ethic and desire to improve all areas of his game.”

Reds general manager Sam Cordingley, meanwhile, was excited to have Vunivalu return to the Reds following their quarter-final finish in Super Rugby Pacific this season.

“Suli is a very popular member of the Reds squad and it was pleasing to see his form being rewarded with Wallaby squad selection,” he said.

“It is great news for the Reds and Wallabies that he has extended through 2023.”

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