Multi-code superstar Israel Folau has been confirmed in the Waratahs squad for the Brisbane Global Rugby Tens.
The former league and AFL player will be joined by fellow dual code international and long time friend Lote Tuqiri in a Waratahs squad boasting a potent blend of experience and youth.
Fan favourite Tuqiri – who chalked up six State of Origin appearances for Queensland, nine test matches for the Kangaroos and 67 test appearances for the Wallabies – joins the Waratahs under the tournament’s wildcard provision.
“Lote brings loads of experience to the playing group and it will be a good chance for our younger guys to play with someone who has played rugby at all levels,” Waratahs head coach Daryl Gibson said.
Tuqiri played 89 times for Waratahs between 2003 and 2009, scoring 29 tries.
“As a competitor I’m looking forward to the challenge, but I must admit I’m a little nervous,” said Tuqiri.
“I’ve been working pretty hard and feeling good, I wouldn’t have agreed to this if I wasn’t prepared and I’m defiantly feeling prepared.
“It will be interesting playing back at Suncorp, I’m not exactly sure what to expect but I know it will be a big atmosphere,” he said.
Tuqiri joins a new look Waratahs side, with many of of the next generation players looking to push for their place in the starting line up this season.
The Waratahs squad includes three Rio Olympians from the Rugby 7s team – Cam Clark, Pat McCutcheon and Con Foley, as well as former NRL speedster Reece Robinson
Having Tuqiri as part of the team will provide a great opportunity for the younger players to rub shoulders with a genuine legend of the game, Gibson said.
“We have some great young players all eager to make their mark during the Trial games, including the Global Tens, with just weeks until the first round of the Super Rugby.
“Having the opportunity for them to learn from a playmaker like Lote will provide an added boost for the boys and a different type of preparation,” said Gibson.
Tuqiri’s primary focus would be helping the younger players relax and enjoy the tournament.
“I know just how much pressure the boys will be under at this time of year,” said Tuqiri.
“It’s not just the training hours on the paddock but also the extensive gym work, trying to prove what you can do and ensuring you have the best preparation.
“Hopefully I can bring to the team a more relaxed playing style to help the guys enjoy the experience of the Global Tens,” he said.
Gibson said the Waratahs were strongly behind an event that will bring together elite teams from Australia and New Zealand along with Toulon, the Blue Bulls, Samoa and the Panasonic Wild Knights.
“It’s important for our code to have showpiece events such as the Global Tens and we are really looking forward to taking part,” said Gibson.
“Considering the limited preparation time we have before the season kicks off in February, the Global Tens will form an important part of the squad’s planning for the season ahead.
“This format is a closer to traditional 15s rugby with scrums and line outs so will give the guys looking to make a mark ahead of the season the opportunity to step up and press their claim before the first round,” he said.
LOTE TUQIRI (wildcard)