September 10, 2021
Fiji dual international and former Wallaby Lote Tuqiri believes a 2027 World Cup in Australia would be a lure for the best from rugby and the NRL.
Rugby.com.au has revealed winning the bid for the 2027 Rugby World Cup showpiece will be a magnet to lure one or two big-name NRL stars to join the challenge.
Tuqiri believes history could repeat should Australia’s persuasive case to host earn a tick early next year.
Tuqiri (2003), Mat Rogers (2002) and Wendell Sailor (2001) were the most high-profile tides of NRL stars to convert to Australian rugby in the one period.
For the Fijian winger, the lure of playing in the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia was a stage he couldn’t resist even as a Queensland State of Origin player and Kangaroo in 2002.
“Australia has got the facilities and we’ve got the knowledgeable sporting public to again come out in droves to support a World Cup,” Tuqiri told rugby.com.au.
“There was a lot of excitement in and around the tournament in 2003 and, for me, it was a big carrot to come over and play rugby.”
“I’d won a premiership with the Broncos and done some other things (in rugby league) but the fact the World Cup was in Australia tipped me over the edge.”
“I think you could see that happen again. Come the 2027 World Cup, one or two converts (from the NRL) coming across in the lead-up is not beyond the realms of possibility.”
“Players like that are going to be coming into a Wallabies squad ripe to succeed in 2027. Young guys now like Tate McDermott will be 28 or 29 by then and at the top of their game.”
“I know there is a World Cup in between to perform at in 2023. Nothing beats shared experience and growing as a group together so you are going to see the current Wallabies get better and better.”
Tuqiri made the exceptional leap from pre-season trials with the NSW Waratahs to try-scoring winger in a World Cup final in less than nine months in 2003.
“Playing a World Cup in my own country and scoring in the final, even though we didn’t win, is one of the most cherished memories I have from both codes,” Tuqiri said.
Tuqiri went on to play 67 Tests for the Wallabies. He sees the wider momentum to the 2027 World Cup bid as a win for the whole region.
“I reckon it’s a World Cup for the South Pacific,” Tuqiri said as a proud Fijian.
“I also look at it from the Fijian point of view.”
“You’d hope Fiji is pushing for a semi-final spot in 2027 if they get it right with the players they bring back from Europe, some of the Olympic sevens gold medallists, dry decks, the sun out and the comfort of playing in Australia,” he continued.
By Romeka Romena