Suaali’i’s Wallabies debut set to be fast-tracked as RA confirms $5m commitment

Joseph Suaali’i’s Wallabies debut is expected to be fast-tracked with Rugby Australia CEO Phil Waugh revealing plans for him to play in the team’s tour of the United Kingdom and Ireland next November.

Speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald, Waugh reiterated that Suaali’i’s code switch will be going ahead despite the departure of key figures Hamish McLennan and Eddie Jones.

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Waugh also expressed his “hope” for the 20-year-old to be parachuted into a Wallabies jersey in time for the Spring tour in less than 12 months time.

“We’re committed to Joseph, he’s coming in in November, hopefully, for the spring tour,” Waugh said.

“We need to deliver on what we say we’re going to deliver on — and that’s a big part of it.”

It comes after reports that Rugby Australia powerbrokers were getting “cold feet” over the big-money deal.


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The plan means Suaali’i could go from playing NRL finals to representing the Wallabies in a matter of weeks depending on how the Roosters’ season pans out.

Suaali’i inked a three-year deal with the Waratahs and Rugby Australia in March. The mega-contract is said to be worth $1.6 million a year, which will make him one of the highest paid players in Australian rugby union history.

The deal attracted a lot of attention — and criticism — despite Suaali’i’s background in the code.

He played rugby for the Kings School and represented the GPS 1st XV but ultimately pursued rugby league via the South Sydney Rabbitohs system before being poached by the Roosters.

The towering outside back, however, has previously admitted he’s always had a dream of playing at the top level in both codes and revealed the chance to play in a British and Irish Lions series as well as a Rugby World Cup is what enticed him to make the switch.

He’ll get the chance to do both during his three-year deal.

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Suaali’i could return to the NRL afterwards though with Roosters chair Nick Politis revealing to 9 News earlier this month that “he (Suaali’i) tells us he’s coming back in 2028.”

While the Roosters are bracing to lose Suaali’i, the glamour club could return serve amid links to Wallabies winger Mark Nawaqanitawase, who comes off contract with the Waratahs at the end of 2024.

However Waugh told the Herald that Rugby Australia hopes to retain the “world-class athlete and world-class human” and said “talks (between the two parties) are continuing.”

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