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.
That’s the view of dual international Lote Tuqiri who 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 tide of NRL stars to convert to Australian rugby in the one period.
For winger Tuqiri, 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.
A wheelbarrow of bullion certainly underpinned the code switch but the footballing aspect had the huge appeal to sway him with a major prize to chase.
“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 said.
“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.”
The Wallabies step into a major challenge on Sunday when they take on the World Cup-winning Springboks on Sunday night at Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast.
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.
Some rugby fans may argue about the respective value to the code of Sailor, Rogers and Tuqiri but they cannot argue about the 57 Test tries they scored in total.
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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.
“I went to Samoa with the Classic Wallabies a few years ago and the Samoans would have the same view of a World Cup in Australia.”