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Tuqiri can’t wait for unleashing

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Pent-up winger Lote Tuqiri says he is eager to cut loose in his return for the Wallabies against Fiji in Perth on Saturday.

Tuqiri has missed Australia’s opening two rugby Tests of the season against Wales while undergoing a regeneration program designed at improving his speed after scoring just one try in 13 Super 14 games this season.

Tuqiri said he couldn’t wait to play in his first Test of the year and his return to team training Tuesday.

“Let me out of the cage,” he told reporters in Perth on Monday.

“I’m just keen to get back into footy, get my hands on the footy again and train together with the boys.

“I hope I can start my Test campaign with a few tries come Saturday.”

Tuqiri has been removed from the Wallabies’ squad at team ball sessions for the past three weeks, training individually with strength and fitness coach Jason Weber.

Tuqiri denied it was all focused on rediscovering lost speed but did say he felt he was a virtual outsider at training.

“I’m keen to be a part of the team again rather than feeling like an individual athlete training on the side,” he said.

“I did get jealous at times looking at the boys playing with the ball.

“I knew I was doing it for a reason but it wasn’t the most fun thing to do.”

Weber and coach John Connolly designed the program in the belief that Tuqiri’s excessive number of matches in the past two seasons had taken the edge off his running game.

Although it’s been almost three months since Tuqiri announced he was staying in rugby, the former Brisbane Bronco rugby league international is yet to sign the contract.

He agreed to terms with the Australian Rugby Union for a AUS$6million package over five years on March 12, but he said he hadn’t signed the contract due to a delay over the completion of a pivotal third-party sponsorship.

“It’s just a couple of nuts and bolts have to be finalised,” he said.

Tuqiri is set to depose Digby Ioane on the right wing against the Fijians, with Test selectors keen to retain some stability in the back three by keeping fullback Julian Huxley and left wing Drew Mitchell.

Connolly will announce the Australian team on Wednesday, when he also reveals the six or seven players to leave for South Africa on Friday to prepare early for the June 16 Tri-Nations opener in Cape Town.

Sapa-AFP

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