Vunivalu eyes 2023 World Cup after re-signing with Rugby Australia

Suliasi Vunivalu has given himself every opportunity to represent the Wallabies at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France by signing a one-year extension with Rugby Australia and the Queensland Reds.

The former Melbourne Storm winger, who was originally brought across to rugby on a two-year deal for the 2021 and 2022 seasons, has always had his sights on rugby’s showpiece tournament.

His re-signing ends speculation Vunivalu would return to the NRL to play with the Redcliffe-based Dolphins next year. RA and the Reds are yet to confirm the news but sources with knowledge of negotiations say Vunivalu remaining in rugby in 2023 is a done deal.

An announcement is expected in coming days, once the winger joins Wallabies camp on Thursday in Queensland. Wallabies coach Dave Rennie will be thrilled Vunivalu is remaining in the 15-man code, for at least another year, before exploring his options for 2024 and beyond.

At a press conference on Sunday, where , Rennie was asked if he was confident Vunivalu would continue playing rugby in 2023.

Yep, confident, Rennie said.

Vunivalu spoke earlier this year about his desire to represent Australia at a Rugby World Cup.

I’d love to play in the World Cup, Vunivalu told AAP. This is my last year on my contract, so I’m just trying to focus on playing good footy.

There’s been rumours around [returning to rugby league] … but I’m just trying to get back to playing again and let my footy do the talking.

Vunivalu is yet to debut for the Wallabies, having spent the majority of 2021 on the sidelines. He has featured in just 14 Super Rugby matches over the past two seasons.

But Rennie hinted on Sunday that with 14 Tests scheduled for this year, Vunivalu’s chances of earning a gold jersey were looking good.

We genuinely believe he’s good enough to play at [international] level, Rennie said. We’ve picked him because there is massive potential and we think we can accelerate his development within the camp rather than leaving him outside that.

He’s had his troubles with injury. We’ve seen glimpses of real quality. We’re keen to get our hands on him and hopefully accelerate that.

Rennie has 15 months to finalise his best starting XV for the World Cup in France and given the investment in Vunivalu, the former NRL speedster will be right in the mix.

Vunivalu is an outstanding athlete and an excellent finisherswho is desperate for a chance to impress on the international stage.

With Marika Koroibete certain to start on one wing against England, Vunivalu will be up against the likes of Andrew Kellaway, Jordan Petaia, Tom Wright and even Izaia Perese – should he be viewed as a wing option – for a spot in Australia’s team.

Vunivalu knows he hasn’t even scratched the surface when it comes to his performances in rugby. He has shown improvements throughout the Super Rugby Pacific season and should thrive with more time in a Wallabies set-up, having been invited to train with the national side in late 2020.

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