WALLABIES superstar Lote Tuqiri has engaged lawyers and will launch immediate legal action against the Australian Rugby Union following the shock termination of his lucrative contract.
Tuqiri's agent Les Ross confirmed the former Wallabies winger would fight his sacking, which was announced late yesterday by an ARU email.
“All I can tell you is that Lote disputes that the ARU are entitled to terminate his contract and he has retained solicitor Mr Mark O'Brien and Mr Tony Marr, senior counsel, to immediately commence proceedings against the ARU,” Ross said.
Mystery surrounds the reason for Tuqiri's dismissal but the ARU had been conducting an investigation into a possible breach of the players' code of conduct.
The ARU statement read: “The employment contract of Lote Tuqiri has been terminated effective today.
“ARU has treated this issue as a standard employment matter.
“The ARU will not make any further comment on the matter as it may be the subject of legal proceedings.”
It is understood the “legal proceedings” referred to are Tuqiri's action against the ARU and the winger has not broken the law.
It is also understood Tuqiri's absence from Australia's first four international matches this year was not related to the reason for his sacking.
One of Australia's highest paid rugby players, Tuqiri was contracted to the ARU until 2012.
He was signed to a massive deal in 2007 as the ARU regime of Gary Flowers fought off an offer from NRL club South Sydney.
Speculation about the ARU investigation had pointed to a late night visit to the Crown Casino in Melbourne in the lead-up to last month's Test against Italy, which also reportedly involved backs Adam Ashley-Cooper and Peter Hynes.
An internet report had also suggested four high-profile rugby players were involved in a serious off-field incident.
Another report said Tuqiri had been issued with a “final warning letter” after a drinking session with Wallabies teammates in 2007.
An ARU spokesman refused to comment further but the body's chief executive John O'Neill will front the media when the Wallabies Tri-Nations squad is announced today.
A spokesman for Tuqiri's Super 14 team, the NSW Waratahs, said the franchise would be making no comment as the matter related to an ARU investigation.
Rugby Union Players Association boss Tony Dempsey was unaware of the situation when contacted last night.
“It certainly comes as a surprise,” he said.