Foketi signs until 2024, Red played with broken hand, Hooper ready to go, Blues prop banned

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Wallabies centre Lalakai Foketi is kicking on after his breakthrough season last year by signing a new deal with Rugby Australia until the end of 2024.

The Waratahs 27-year-old broke into the Australian team last year and earned his international debut against Wales in the Wallabies’ final Test of 2021.

After growing up on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, he made his Super Rugby debut for the Melbourne Rebels in 2014, before stints for Bay of Plenty in the NPC and Bayonne in France.

The former Australian under 20s representative returned to Sydney at the end of 2017, making his debut for the Waratahs in 2018 and has since gone on to become a mainstay within their match-day squad. He will play his 50th Super Rugby match for the Waratahs on Friday night against the Fijian Drua on the Gold Coast.

“My family’s happy here and settled and I’m loving playing at the Waratahs, so deciding to extend my time here for another two years was a no-brainer,” he said.

“It’s an extremely tight-knit group at the Waratahs and there is a real sense of excitement about what this team can achieve, and I want to play a part in putting this great club back on top.

“I think scratching the surface of international rugby at the end of last year made me incredibly motivated to stay in Australia and to continue to push for higher honours, especially with a World Cup next year.”

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie said Foketi was “a quality man who adds a lot to our mob on and off the field”.

“He’s had a unique journey to the Wallaby jersey and we saw how much it meant to him and our squad when he was selected for his debut in Wales last year,” he said.

“His quality distribution and footwork are a genuine point of difference but it’s his diligence to develop all parts of his game that has impressed us.”

Waratahs coach Darren Coleman described him as “a really likeable, super humble, popular member of the team who genuinely cares about his teammates, which is hugely important”.

“He was a little late on the Super Rugby scene and had to bounce around the world before he got his gig here and his dedication and focus have seen him get the call up with the Wallabies.

“Lalakai is an ultimate all-rounder, he can ball play, he can carry and he’s really strong defensively and he’s now at a point where he’s one of the most dangerous strike centres in the league and we’re glad he’s staying.”

Matthew Faessler

(Photo by Dan Peled/Getty Images)

Campbell injury gives Daugunu chance at Reds

Injury to Queensland Reds back Jock Campbell has provided Filipo Daugunu the chance to re-establish himself after the Wallabies winger found himself on the outer this Super Rugby Pacific season.

Campbell played the bulk of last week’s game against NSW with a broken hand, the winger even collecting an intercept to score at the death.

He and in-form back-rower Seru Uru (ankle) will miss the top-of-the-table clash with the Brumbies at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday, with Daugunu and fellow fringe Wallaby Liam Wright the men to fill the void.

Lukhan Salakaia-Loto will also return via the bench from an ankle injury while hooker Richie Asiata will appear on the bench for the first time after breaking his arm in the pre-season.

Daugunu showed his explosive power and speed in a brilliant Test debut in New Zealand in 2020, but has often been his own worst enemy with reckless tackles and unforced errors.

“Lipo in for his 50th (Super Rugby game) … he’s a great character everyone’s excited for,” Wright said.

“He’s going to bring that typical flair he’s got, but he’s been working on reducing a few mistakes and being a composed member of the backline.

“Thorny’s been in his ear with that and he’s been training the house down.” 

The visit will be the Brumbies’ first since the Reds sunk them with an 85th-minute try to win the Super Rugby AU title in a full stadium.

The home side has won 14 of their last 15 games despite the margin being five points or less in seven of their last eight clashes, including a controversial four-point win to the Brumbies in Canberra earlier this month.

“The AU final was an epic night and all the games we’ve had recently have been down to the wire,” Wright said. 

Jesse Mogg will wear the Brumbies’ No.15 for the first time since 2015, replacing the injured Tom Banks (cheekbone). 

Michael Hooper runs with the ball

Michael Hooper (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Hooper massive boost for Tahs

Michael Hooper will play his first game for the Waratahs since 2020, returning as forecast on the bench to face the Fijian Drua on the Gold Coast on Friday.

“Having Hoops back in the team is a massive boost for us,” coach Darren Coleman said.

“To have one of the best players in the world return is really exciting not just for us but for our fans and we can’t wait to see him on the field this weekend wearing the sky blue.”

Laulala banned for dangerous play

Blues prop Nepo Laulala was suspended for three weeks by the SANZAAR Foul Play Review Committee after he was sent off in the Super Rugby Pacific victory over Moana Pasifika on Tuesday at Mt Smart Stadium. 

The incident occurred in the 58th minute of the 32-19 triumph  when he made a reckless clean-out at a ruck. His shoulder connected with the head of Moana Pasifika centre Fine Inisi and he was shown a red card.

Committee chairman Michael Heron said: “the act of foul play merited a mid-range entry point of six weeks due to the World Rugby instructions that dictate any incident of foul play involving contact with the head must start at a mid-range level. 

“Taking into account mitigating factors including the player’s clean judicial record, his acceptance of foul play and his expressed remorse, the judicial committee reduced the suspension to three weeks.”

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