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Wallaby defector gets surprise Olympic call-up

Mark Nawaqanitawase will become an Olympian before his move to the NRL after making a late charge into Australia’s Sevens team.

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The Wallaby wing has signed with the Sydney Roosters and could play for the Tricolours this season after the NRL cleared the move on Tuesday.

The Waratahs flyer will be hoping to bring some silverware with him after winning selection to John Manenti’s side that will arrive in Paris among the many contenders for gold.

While former Wallaby captain Michael Hooper’s bid fell short, Commonwealth Games representative Nawaqanitawase’s raw speed and athleticism was enough to earn him a spot in the 12-man squad named on Wednesday.

Manenti said he planned on using Nawaqanitawase’s X-factor in short bursts.

“His aerial skills are huge in sevens,” Manenti said.

“Kick-off reception and kick-off restarts, so that’s a big weapon for him.

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“His offload game. He’s a big body, the biggest body we’ve got, so his engine won’t be as well-trained as the guys who have been with us for a long time.

“But he’ll be able to make an impact in three- or four-minute bursts and hopefully win a kick-off back and suck two or three guys into the tackle.

“It allows us to play off that.”

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The 23-year-old admitted it was a surreal feeling knowing he could potentially go from being a member of Australia’s worst-ever World Cup team and picking up a Super Rugby Pacific wooden spoon with the Waratahs to collecting an Olympic gold medal and winning an NRL premiership in less than two years.

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“It’s been quite a crazy year,” Nawaqanitawase said.

“It’s mind-blowing to think this was even a possibility.”

Brumby wing and former Sevens regular Corey Toole will also play in Paris, able to prove himself alongside Nawaqanitawase in a last-ditch June training camp.

“His speed gives us a real point of difference,” Manenti said.

“Even in training, he’s just starting to get back into his groove from where he was last year, two years ago.

“Certainly from our end [he’s] the quickest thing we’ve got.”

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