Pulu faces Brumbies challenge after Wallabies whirlwind

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Toni Pulu had a taste of the Wallabies before playing a minute of rugby for the Brumbies but the new ACT winger knows there won't be any guarantees in Super Rugby or beyond this season.

Pulu, who is eligible for Australia through his parents, arrived in Canberra in December after seven-year career in New Zealand that saw him spend the last three Super Rugby seasons with the Chiefs.

Much to his surprise, only a few weeks had passed when Pulu was invited into the Wallabies camp in Sydney in January.

“Yeah I was surprised to be honest, I didn't expect it,” the 29-year-old said.

“I received an email and I was excited, I told my family and they were happy too.”

It was something of a get-to-know-you trip into the Wallabies system - both on and off the training paddock - but the lure of a possible Test berth was part of Pulu’s decision to move to Australia.

The LA-born, Auckland-raised speedster had conversations with Wallabies coach Michael Cheika before making the move to Canberra.

“I spoke to Cheik before I came and I understood what needed to be done and what's expected of me,” he said.

“Just like all wingers, he's looking for people that work hard, good blokes and I think the team bonding aspect is important too.”

Toni Pulu has some strong competition for starting Brumbies spots. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyAside from some brutal hill runs, Pulu said he relished the chance to be around the Wallabies environment.

Before the  can think about his Wallabies prospects, though, his main focus is cracking a competitive Brumbies backline.

With Henry Speight, Andy Muirhead, Chance Peni and Lausi Taliauli all in the mix for wing spots, Pulu won’t be able to cruise his way into the lineup and it’s a challenge of which he’s all too aware.

“It's very tough,” he said.

“It's going to be exciting seeing the kids out there and the boys know that no matter who gets out there, they can do the job.

“Speighty's back he's in good form, Andy's back and Lausi's back and Money - Chance. It's going to be tough for the coaches and we're happy with whoever gets out there.”

There was a heart in mouth moment for the Brumbies when luckless Taliauli went down in their final trial but his injury is not believed to be serious.

Pulu has already impressed coach Dan McKellar, who tipped the winger to become a major drawcard for the ACT franchise.

“He’s got tremendous speed but he's not just an athlete with good speed, he's a good footballer - he sees space, very good knowledge, gives good voice on an edge and he's going to be a really good addition to our group,” he said.

“He's certainly someone that will get fans to games and get them off their seat when we touches the ball in open space so it's a special sight.”

The Brumbies take on the Rebels in their Super Rugby opener on Friday February 15, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO.