Rugby News: Lote ‘feels sorry’ for Suaalii as he predicts rookie’s impact, Barrett seals ABs return


Former Wallabies star Lote Tuqiri has boldly declared Joseph Suaalii could be the best code-hopper yet.

Tuqiri played in the 2003 World Cup final in a squad that included league converts Mat Rogers and Wendell Sailor.

“He could get to Israel Folau status,” Tuqiri told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“He probably could be better. He could be better than all of us rugby league converts. Joseph Suaalii could be a force to be reckoned with.”

Tuqiri backed Phil Waugh’s suggestion that Suaalii go on the Wallabies end of season European tour as his first foray into rugby after leaving the NRL Roosters at the end of the 2024 season.

“There would be a chance [of player unrest],” Tuqiri acknowledged. “I actually feel a bit sorry for the kid. He’s just doing the best for himself. There always will be a bit of conjecture. On the whole, if you play in a team environment, you want success and the best players. He’s not going back to rugby because he’s a dud. I think the players will get around it.

Joseph Suaalii . (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

“I think there was a little bit [of blowback] when I was coming through … and I get that because guys have been playing rugby their whole life. You’ve just got to be good enough.

“At the end of the day, we weren’t good enough [at the World Cup]. We picked blokes to go to the World Cup who we thought were good enough but weren’t. That quality was terrible.

“You’d be silly not to take him. They’ve made a big investment. He’s been playing at a high level with the Roosters. I think you try and fast-track him in. Whether he plays or not is another question. What we saw in the World Cup is not having enough experience. I think just being away with blokes will stand him in good stead going into 2025.”

Tuqiri said it would be natural for Suaalii to have some doubts over his decision to change codes. There have already been reports that he’s talking of an NRL return in 2028 when his union contract expires after the World Cup.

“If I’m him, I would have some doubts if I made the right decision,” Tuqiri said. “He’ll have another 12 months to see where the game goes. It can only go up in Australia. He’s a young bloke who’s signed for a lot of money in a game where he can actually play. He seems very level-headed and mature for a 20-year-old kid.”

Barrett gets go-ahead for All Blacks return

Beauden Barrett’s contract saga appears to have reached a conclusion with Stuff reporting a new deal with the All Blacks and Bues could be revealed this week.

“Stuff understands Barrett’s new contract with New Zealand Rugby and the Blues, with a significant third-party contribution once again, is set to be revealed as early as this week after taking some time to get over the line. It will take him through until the 2027 World Cup, and give new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson a valuable veteran option at No 10 in the post-Richie Mo’unga era,” wrote Marc Hinton.

He said the Blues declined to comment on the negotiations.

Barrett has played 123 times for the All Blacks and was keen to come back after a one year deal in Japan.

The new deal means he could make a claim on the All Blacks Test cap record of 153 set by Sam Whitelock at the World Cup.

Nienaber off to a winning start

Springboks’ World Cup winning coach had another tight victory to launch his coaching career with Leinster in the URC – his team beating Connacht 24-22 with a late try in his first game at the helm.

It was Nienaber’s debut after the one point victory in the World Cup final.

Before the game Nienaber explained why he swapped the world champions for club rugby.

“That was part of the challenge, to come into an environment where there’s no place for mediocracy,” Nienaber told the Leinster website.

“When you look at Leinster from the outside, the product they deliver on the pitch, it’s clear that it’s not a place for mediocracy. That’s the challenge that you want.

“Not that I had any of that in South Africa, but for a change-up, getting our family over here and for some more personal reasons, that’s the reason we made the move as a family.

“From a work perspective, the challenge is massive. Both the demands from the coaches and the players as well, they are top international players that have won a lot of accolades, they’ll definitely keep you on your toes.”

Nienaber previously spent a season with Munster under Rassie Erasmus.

“It always helps coming back to a country, we were open and honest, me and my family, about our time in Ireland. We really enjoyed living in Ireland. Life happened and we moved back,” Nienaber said.

“Now we’re back, it’s a nice challenge with Leinster.

“A lot of people might ask: ‘why leave international rugby for a club job’? But, the challenge with Leinster is massive. The expectations are massive at Leinster.

“You certainly can’t turn to the squad and give any excuses, in terms of the players, the skill set, the athleticism we have to work with. The demands will be massive and that’s why it’s a nice challenge for me, personally.”

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