Rennie opens up about League convert
Suliasi Vunivalu won’t play in the remaining Tri-Nations Tests, with coach Dave Rennie saying the Rugby League covert call-up to the Wallabies is about getting to know the Melbourne Storm player.
The star wing, who has signed a two-year deal with Queensland and Rugby Australia, joined the Wallabies in their Hunter Valley camp this week, providing both parties with a taste of their future together.
“We’ve bought Suli in to have a bit of a look as we don’t know an enormous amount about him from a character point of view,” Rennie said on Thursday.
“It’s a chance for him to get an understanding of what we think is important and hopefully when he gets back to Super Rugby he has an understanding around two or three key areas that he can put a bit of time into that will help his transition.
“There’s no thinking about using him against Argentina; we want him to earn the right to play.”
Vunivalu, 24, played Rugby Union as a junior and at high school in Auckland before being signed by the Storm as an 18-year-old.
Rennie said his athletic ability – including skills under the high ball and speed – was evident in his NRL career and he felt they would be easily transferable to the 15-man game.
The Wallabies have the weekend off with New Zealand and Argentina to do battle in the Tri-Nations in Sydney on Saturday.
Despite coming off a shock 24-22 win over the All Blacks in Brisbane, Rennie said the break was welcome with a number of players carrying injuries.
That includes flyhalf James O’Connor, who has missed the past two matches with a knee injury.
Depending on his recovery the Queenslander could join a number of players leaving camp next week with the squad cut to give players more time off before Super Rugby AU resumes.
O’Connor’s troublesome knee paves the way for Reece Hodge to again wear the No.10 jersey against the Pumas on Saturday week in Newcastle.
In just his second ever start at five-eighth Hodge was a star of their All Blacks upset.
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“We were really happy with the way Reece went so he’s putting a lot of pressure on us to give him another crack there,” Rennie said.
“It’s the only game he’s started for us since I’ve been here and I thought he was excellent.
“He delivered on all the areas that were the reasons we picked him and he gave us a bit of experience and he’s got a big kicking game.
“And then he’s a big man who can carry and defend well in that channel so I’m sure he’s pretty rapt with his performance and he had a massive impact on the result.”