Winger has Lote to offer
A FRUSTRATED Lote Tuqiri is doing it tough wondering when and where his next Test may come but the Wallabies have nothing but praise for the dumped star's attitude.
An out-of-favour Tuqiri is the only fully fit member of Australia's 30-man squad not to have been selected for action in the three opening internationals of the season.
Teammates say the 67-Test stalwart, the highest-paid player in the code with Matt Giteau, is hurting after a mediocre Super 14 with NSW has left him rated no better than the team's fourth best winger.
It's a far cry from the last time the Wallabies ventured to Melbourne to play Italy in 2005.
Tuqiri carved up the Azzurri to score four tries.
This week his Test involvement, before receiving an early leave pass to play club rugby, is limited to the training paddock.
To that end Australia's coaches and players have been impressed by Tuqiri's work ethic, input and leadership.
“Lote is one of the senior players and obviously one of the best wingers in the world, and still is,” said rookie inside back Quade Cooper.
“The way he's training is world class and that's the benchmark for the rest of the guys.
“That (intensity) is where everyone else has to be.”
Cooper's centre partner for Saturday night's second Test, Ryan Cross, admitted his fellow league convert has proven he's as hungry as ever to regain the No.11 he's owned for almost six years.
“I think he's finding it pretty tough but, having said that, he's handled it well,” Cross said.
“He's trained hard and competed very hard. You can't take much away from him, he's doing all he can - but it's tough for him no doubt.”
With coach Robbie Deans expected to next week name his strongest possible team to play a confident France, who last weekend upset the All Blacks 27-22, Tuqiri has a massive challenge to play in the Tri-Nations, kicking off in a month.
But despite the form of Lachie Turner and Drew Mitchell and the return of Peter Hynes, new assistant coach Richard Graham has no doubt the door remains open for the 29-year-old to force his way back in through training and club performances.
“Definitely,” Graham said.
“I've been really impressed by his attitude at training.
“He's certainly well respected and when he says something the players have listened to him, and he's working hard at the moment to do what Robbie's asked of him.”
Deans has kept his conversations with Tuqiri private but is believed to be looking for better finishing ability from his wingers, and the speed of Turner, Mitchell and Hynes trumps the former Brisbane Bronco.
“I think as an outside back the one thing you can't coach is speed,” former Queensland fullback Graham said.
“You look at Lachie Turner he has genuine speed and his ability to beat a man is there for people to see.
“But from Lote's point of view, he's played 70 Tests and he's still very well respected in world rugby and has a lot to offer us.”