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Former NRL stars chase golden prize

Date

Ben Horne

Joe Tomane will battle fellow former NRL star Cooper Vuna tomorrow night, with a spot on the Wallabies' wing at stake.

Joe Tomane will battle fellow former NRL star Cooper Vuna tomorrow night, with a spot on the Wallabies' wing at stake. Photo: Colleen Petch

NRL converts Cooper Vuna and Joe Tomane will face off in Super Rugby action tomorrow night in what shapes as a Wallabies wing-spot duel for Tuesday's Test against Scotland.

Melbourne flyer Vuna and Brumbies revelation Tomane practised together with the Wallabies train-on squad yesterday, but in a mouth-watering match-up, they'll go head-to-head at AAMI Park with a gold jersey potentially on the line.

Although Queenslander Dom Shipperley is also in the frame to partner Digby Ioane on the wing at Hunter Stadium, Vuna and Tomane get one final chance to convince Robbie Deans they're ready to become the latest in a long line of league converts to play out wide for the Wallabies.

Tomane, a former Australian Schools representative, has lost none of his rugby instincts in a stellar debut season for the Brumbies in 2012.

''It's real surreal. It still hasn't really sunk in even though I've done a lot of training with the squad, it still feels like I'm not here,'' said Tomane.

''My thoughts were maybe I might have a crack at the Wallabies in the next three or four years … I didn't expect it to happen so fast, it's just an awesome experience. If I get that opportunity hopefully I'll hold onto it.''

A crowd pleaser in NRL-mad Newcastle during his stint with the Knights, Vuna said he was approaching tomorrow's match as a Test selection trial, and he won't be leaving anything in reserve when he clashes with Tomane.

''It's pretty much a showcase I guess … if we do clash I won't hold back on anything,'' said Vuna, who admits to not knowing all the Wallabies players' names yet.

''It's going to be tough out there, there are players right across the park that are all fighting for a spot in that Scotland game [halfbacks Nick Phipps and Nic White will also match up].

''It's pretty much trying to find my form and back myself into making that squad.''

The pair have only ever played against each other once and that was in an NRL match in 2010 when Tomane's Gold Coast Titans beat Vuna's Knights 38-36 in a thriller fittingly played at Tuesday's Test venue, Hunter Stadium in Newcastle.

On that day both players stepped up to the mark and scored a try.

Andrew Walker, Wendell Sailor, Mat Rogers, Lote Tuqiri and Ryan Cross were all high-profile NRL converts who made a name for themselves in the outside backs for the Wallabies in the 2000s.

And while Vuna and Tomane haven't come across with the same fanfare as their predecessors, they've been heavily influenced by two big names who made the switch a decade ago.

Vuna, 24, says he was instructed as a youngster to model his game on giant winger Sailor, while fellow dual international Rogers has been a mentor for 22-year-old Tomane since they played together at the Titans.

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Round 1
Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 18 vs TGA 18 Report Stats
FJI 25 vs ITA 14 Report Stats
NZL 20 vs ENG 15 Report Stats
AUS 50 vs FRA 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 47 vs WXV 13 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 29 Report Stats
USA 6 vs SCO 24 Report Stats
CAN 25 vs JPN 34 Report Stats
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Round 2
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SAM 15 vs ITA Report Stats
FJI 45 vs TGA 17 Report Stats
NZL 28 vs ENG 27 Report Stats
AUS 6 vs FRA Report Stats
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RSA 38 vs WAL 16 Report Stats
CAN 17 vs SCO 19 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 23 Report Stats
USA 29 vs JPN 37 Report Stats
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Round 3
Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
ARG 19 vs SCO 21 Report Stats
FJI 13 vs SAM 18 Report Stats
JPN 26 vs ITA 23 Report Stats
AUS 39 vs FRA 13 Stats
NZL 36 vs ENG 13 Report Stats
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RSA 31 vs WAL 30 Report Stats
USA 38 vs CAN 35 Report Stats
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Round 4
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