Eddie Jones wants to help ignite Australia’s rugby resurgence by poaching some of the NRL’s brightest young talent – see who he has his sights set on.
Eddie Jones has three NRL goals in mind to sign with the Wallabies.
He has not identified the three but well-placed sources suggest some top-flight league stars, all of whom are out of contract this year, are on an interest list at Rugby Australia.
Rising Roosters Gun Joseph Sua’ali’i is the obvious #1 target for rugby.
But alongside him, Parramatta Eels center Will Penisini, Manly Flyer Tolu Koula and Melbourne Storm Enforcer Nelson Asofa-Solomona are wanted by RA.
A former schoolboy rugby player, Sua’ali’i played for Samoa at the Rugby League World Cup and has all the physical and mental qualities to switch codes and take on international rugby rivals straight away.
No wonder RA has a huge offer waiting for the 19-year-old.
They’ll need private investment to bring Sua’ali’i up to a potential $10m bid, but suits at Moore Park are confident as Australia host the multi-million dollar British & Irish Lions series in 2025 and the 2027 World Cup will align.
New Wallabies manager Jones is determined to revitalize rugby on the Australian sporting landscape and there could be no bigger statement than poaching the best young player in the NRL.
Penisini went to school and played alongside Sua’ali’i at Kings School in Parramatta and led their First XV team to an unbeaten season in 2020 before signing with the Eels and making his NRL debut the following year.
The 20-year-old is a free agent post the 2023 season and would be a prime candidate for the Wallabies backline for the next five years.
Koula, 20, is under contract until the end of 2024 but given his extensive rugby experience – he was a member of Australia’s Schoolboys team alongside Sua’ali’i in 2019 – he would be an ideal target for the 2025 Lions series.
115kg giant Asofa-Solomona has already explored the possibility of playing rugby for Australia.
He met with former Wallabies coach Dave Rennie when his anti-vaccination position threatened to derail his NRL career in the midst of the Covid-hit 2021 season.
However, this issue was resolved and Asofa-Solomona played with the storm again.
But the New Zealand-born heavyweight, who grew up dreaming of playing for the All Blacks, is also out of contract after this year and Jones, who loves big bodies with an aggressive mindset, could see Asofa-Solomona as a ball-carrying backrow option to use.
Another is Roosters backrower Angus Crichton.
Crichton re-signed with the Bondi club by the end of 2024 so he too would be a Lions target if wanted by RA.
Jones was at the helm of the Wallabies as they knocked out Wendell Sailor, Lote Tuqiri and Mat Rogers from the league, and all helped Australia reach the 2003 World Cup final.
He’s not afraid to shake things up for Australian rugby.
In an interview with Nine, Jones revealed he had three NRL players on his target list.
“We always want to develop players in rugby first,” Jones said.
“That is the No. 1 priority. No. 2 is to win back players who were initially lost from rugby to rugby because of the financial incentives the league can offer players. We want to bring back lost players. Third, is there a timely opportunity to secure some talent that we don’t have in league rugby? I think a strategic plan has to be put in place, but the first thing we have to do is keep the talent that we have.
“There are three [NRL targets] that comes to mind… All were Australian schoolboys and did well in the NRL. I’m sure the allure of playing at a home Rugby World Cup could be something to lure them back.”
There are several other NRL stars with rugby backgrounds – including Kangaroos star Cam Murray.
But Murray signed an extension with South Sydney Rabbitohs until the end of 2025, making it unlikely he will be pursued by Jones.
Originally published as Eddie Jones NRL Stars Watches to Spark Wallabies Revival
https://www.codesports.com.au/nrl/eddie-jones-eyes-nrl-stars-to-help-spark-wallabies-revival/news-story/59bafb60878e9b9c8dae85c306173aff?nk=49063c837f10268d618cc9f0af05331c-1673941986 Eddie Jones’ NRL hit list: Wallabies coach targets Joseph Suaalii, Will Penisini, Tolu Koula, Nelson Asofa-Solomona