Australia will ‘shut the Pommies up’, says debutant Suliasi Vunivalu

The rugby league convert will make his long-awaited Wallabies debut off the bench.

By Press Association Published: 14 July 2022 - 5.05am

Suliasi Vunivalu insists Australia are determined to “shut the Pommies up” when they clash with England in Saturday’s series decider at Sydney Cricket Ground.

Rugby league convert Vunivalu will make his long-awaited Wallabies debut off the bench having finally overcome the hamstring injuries that have repeatedly struck since switching codes last year.

Inspired by seeing Queensland edge New South Wales in a dramatic State of Origin decider on Wednesday, Vunivalu wants to silence Eddie Jones’ tourists by making the strong start Australia have been unable to produce in the first two Tests.

“Watching that Origin game made me look forward to our big game with that intensity right from the start,” the Fijian-born wing said.

“We have been lacking that with the Wallabies for our first 20 minutes, so if we can bring that up and shut the Pommies up we’ll do a good job.”

Head coach Dave Rennie has made four changes to the team that fell to a 25-17 defeat in the second Test with prop James Slipper, lock Nick Frost, flanker Harry Wilson and full-back Reece Hodge starting.

Hodge is the fourth different player to feature at 15 for Australia due to a sickening run of injuries and Rennie joked that if their bad luck continues in Sydney, Vunivalu could be on the field for longer than planned.

Reece Hodge runs with the ball in his left hand
Versatile back Reece Hodge has been called into the full-back jersey following injuries to a string of his team-mates (David Davies/PA)

“Just thinking about the last couple of weeks, he’ll probably be on after about three minutes. Suli’s time on the field will definitely be game-dependent,” Rennie said.

“He is covering a fair number of spots if you consider that Reece Hodge could move. We certainly want to give him reasonable time, but we’ll do what’s best for the team on the day.”

Australia trailed 17-0 in the first half at Suncorp Stadium but fought back only for a high error count to undermine their effort to seize an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series.

Australia head coach Dave Rennie looks on
Former Glasgow boss Rennie has vowed Australia will improve following their loss in Brisbane (Steve Welsh/PA)

“This game is massive. We’re well aware of that. We were disappointed last week and we’re better than that. There’s no doubting the character of this group and we will fight,” Rennie said.

“We gave England such a big start in the last game and they’re too good a side to be given that sort of advantage. We have to be better and we will be.”

Australia team – R Hodge, T Wright, H Paisami, S Kerevi, M Koroibete, N Lolesio, Nic White, J Slipper, D Porecki, T Tupou, N Frost, M Philip, H Wilson, M Hooper (capt), R Valetini.

Replacements: F Fainga’a, A Bell, A Alaalatoa, R Leota, P Samu, T McDermott, L Ikitau, S Vunivalu.

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