Rugby

Bags to riches for rugby's ex-hotel porter Nabuli

2017-06-16 10:39
Eto Nabuli (right) and Beauden Barrett (Getty).

Sydney - Eto Nabuli will complete a fairy-tale journey on Saturday when he makes his Australia debut against Scotland, five years after being talent-spotted while carrying bags as a hotel porter.

Fijian-born Nabuli is Australia's only change from last week's 37-14 win over Fiji, with the Wallabies expecting a tough afternoon against the Six Nations team in Sydney.

Nabuli is a fascinating rags-to-riches tale after being discovered by Australian rugby league greats Brad Fittler and Andrew Johns as he lugged their suitcases as a porter at a Fijian hotel in 2012.

"He just had something about him," Johns recalled. "We took him to the park and did some drills with him, had him catching high balls. His hand-eye coordination was unbelievable.

"I am really happy he has got his opportunity for the Wallabies, that is some sort of statement he's made."

Nabuli went on to play 13 National Rugby League games for the Illawarra Dragons before switching to the Reds, where he has played 16 Super Rugby matches before being called up by coach Michael Cheika.

"You could do worse than getting those blokes (Fittler and Johns) to go out and talent-scout for you," Cheika quipped this week. "They've obviously got an eye for good talent.

"His improvement from last year to this year with the Reds has been outstanding."

Nabuli comes in on the left wing for another Fijian-born player, Henry Speight, in the only change.

However, skipper Stephen Moore was again overlooked for Tatafu Polota-Nau, with flanker Michael Hooper the on-field captain.

"We have had a number of discussions about that going way back so it hasn't come out of nowhere. Those roles, they're fluid and they evolve over time," said Moore, who has played 118 Tests.

Rugby league convert Karmichael Hunt retains his place at inside centre after his assured debut against Fiji last week.

It will be a distinct step up for the Wallabies, who beat fifth-ranked Scotland by just one point in their previous two meetings and lost to them 9-6 in their last home encounter in 2012.

The Scots beat Wales and Ireland during this year's Six Nations before downing Italy 34-13 in Singapore last weekend.

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend has made eight changes to his starting side, picking an entirely new front row and back three.

"Australia are one of the best teams in the world, so this will be a much tougher challenge than our game last week," Townsend said.

"The Wallabies DNA is about moving the ball and they have always been one of the best attacking teams in the game.

"It's a game that will challenge our players in defence but we'll also have to be very accurate in attack and aim to out-work our opposition.

"There are a few changes this week as we'd planned to give a number of our squad the opportunity to play in the first two games of tour."

Teams:

Australia

15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Karmichael Hunt, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Tom Robertson

Substitutes: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Rory Arnold, 20 Richard Hardwick, 21 Joe Powell, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Reece Hodge

Scotland

15 Greig Tonks, 14 Lee Jones, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 Rory Hughes, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay (captain), 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Gordon Reid

Substitutes: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Willem Nel, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Josh Strauss, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Matt Scott

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