Wallabies coach Eddie Jones hands Suliasi Vunivalu lifeline
New Wallabies coach Eddie Jones has handed Suliasi Vunivalu an international lifeline after name dropping the former NRL star in his potential Test backline.
Queensland winger Vunivalu is entering his third season as a highly paid rugby player but has just one Test cap to his name after last year being strangely used as a 77th minute substitute in the loss to England at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
The 27-year-old has struggled with injuries since switching to rugby and former coach Dave Rennie left him out of a 44 man squad that assembled on the Gold Coast for a four day camp in January.
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”Suli has got really clear messages,” Rennie said.
“We need to see him run fast. We need to see him open up and repeat of speed efforts.
“We know his ability aerially is excellent. He needs to put in good performances at Super (Rugby) level. He had a couple of runs with Australia A and needs to build on it.
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“What we saw from Mark Nawaqanitawase (on the spring tour) is a man who’s equally good (as Vunivalu) aerially, but is good all over the park. His speed and repeat speed was excellent as was his post-tackle work and his defensive work.”
But the slate is wiped clean with Jones, who has a strong affection for league players and the game in general.
The bullish 63-year-old asked “is there a better backline in the world now?” at a press conference on Tuesday and then elaborated in an interview on Brisbane radio.
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“There’s a lot of good players in Australian rugby,” Jones said.
“You just look at the backline Australia could potentially have: (Samu) Kerevi, when he’s fit, (Len) Ikitau as centres, on the wing you’ve got (Marika) Koroibete, the Melbourne Storm boy Vunivalu on the wing, competing against (Andrew) Kellaway.
“There’s a lot of good quality players there, particularly in the backline, to play that almost traditional, Australian rugby attacking style.”
At his old Matraville Sports High School, Jones also laid out his road map for the next few months as he assesses his options in both Super Rugby Pacific and abroad.
“There’s three big things. One, the staff, two, the players and three, the way we play. So I used to have plans after plans – I used to have paper everywhere,” Jones said.
“And one of the things age teaches you is have an idea in your head but don’t get too set to a plan… it’s not just the head coaches, it’s the assistant coaches.
“Because when you think of modern rugby now and you think of how much work is done to prepare a team, the vast majority of the work is done by the assistant coaches.
“Now I’ve got a role to play so I’ve got to find the right level of coaching for those players so they want to give a bit more…
“I can’t get our staff worked out until I know what the players need. It’s not what I need. It’s what the players need so we’ll work that out and we’ll get that done.”
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