By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – The Wallabies would welcome Pete Samu with open arms for the June test series against Ireland, hooker Jordan Uelese has said, after it was confirmed the loose forward will join Australian Super Rugby side ACT Brumbies from the Canterbury Crusaders.
Melbourne-born Samu has been playing for New Zealand’s Crusaders since 2016 but will cross to the Brumbies for 2019, the Canberra-based side confirmed on Tuesday.
Australian media have reported that the 26-year-old was set to be a surprise inclusion in Michael Cheika’s Wallabies squad on Wednesday, despite the player remaining contracted to New Zealand Rugby (NZR).
NZR were unavailable for comment on Samu but the governing body recently released Wellington Hurricanes loose forward Brad Shields, albeit grudgingly, from his national contract to allow him to be selected by England for June tests against South Africa.
Uelese said Samu, who is also eligible to play for New Zealand, was “obviously” an Australian player.
“He only just moved over to New Zealand not long ago,” the 21-year-old Melbourne Rebel told reporters on Tuesday.
“I think it’d be great for him to come.
“Obviously he’s gone elsewhere for an opportunity to play top level footy and that’s good for him.
“I know he’s a Melbourne boy, some of my cousins played with him out at the (Greater Sydney) Rams, so I think it’s great he wants to come back and wants to represent his country.”
Samu played for famed Sydney club Randwick, Cheika’s former team, and was part of the New South Wales Waratahs’ 2013 squad before crossing the Tasman Sea to play in New Zealand.
He made his debut for the Crusaders in 2016 and has proved himself a valuable squad member, able to play at blindside flanker or number eight.
If named in Cheika’s squad he would give the Wallabies the strong ball-carrying presence in the loose forwards they have been lacking in recent years, particularly if teamed with Michael Hooper and David Pocock in the back row.
“Regardless of where he’s playing at the moment, he was born here and he played all his junior footy here and his senior footy here, so … I think he deserves the opportunity to represent his country,” added Uelese, who was born in Wellington but has been capped twice by Australia.
Samu said he was “thrilled” by the challenge of joining the Brumbies.
“The Brumbies are well-renowned throughout Super Rugby for being a successful club and for having a fantastic playing culture,” he said in a statement.
The Wallabies face Ireland next month in a three-match test series, starting in Brisbane on June 9.
(Additional reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Peter Rutherford)