'Motivated' Paisami firms for Reds #12 role after World Cup snub

Tue, Feb 6, 2024, 4:45 AM
Lachlan Grey
by Lachlan Grey

Super Rugby rivals beware - Hunter Paisami has a point to prove in 2024.

Dogged by injury and overlooked for World Cup selection last year, Paisami is more "motivated" than ever after blowing the cobwebs out during Queensland's opening trial against the Western Force.

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The Reds bulldozer was at his tackle-shredding best during Saturday's 19-21 loss and says he's ready to shake off 2023 and impress under new management at Ballymore.

"Obviously to be ruled out and not be picked (for the World Cup) was pretty disappointing but I'm looking at bigger and better things for me to try and get better at on and off the field,' Paisami told reporters on Tuesday.

"I'm pretty motivated and super stoked to try and play some of my best footy for the Reds. (Saturday's trial against the Force) was a good first hit-out with a lot of good stuff and we're slowly building.

"Les' gameplan just gives us that freedom to play footy and have a crack on the field, whether we've got the ball or not.

"Les has been a massive difference to my game and career this year. He's given me a lot of confidence to go out there and play my game."

Though the sting of missing a maiden World Cup snub remains, Paisami said his experience touring Great Britain with the Barbarians helped rekindle a love for rugby.

"BaaBaas was probably one of the best tours I've ever done in my career so far, I loved travelling and meeting people, bit of a mixed team as well with different cultures mixed in.

"It was obviously fun running rugby and it brings you to the reason why you play rugby, you know, just to enjoy it and have fun."

A free-wheeling Paisami is nightmare fuel for the even staunchest of defenders with the 25-year-old now firming as Kiss' first-choice inside centre through 2024.

Paisami told reporters he'd spent the majority of pre-season training in the #12 role and is relishing life in the jersey donned by his rugby idol, Ma'a Nonu.

"It's my first full pre-season I've trained at 12 fulltime (and) 12 is probably starting to be my preference … that's where I'm getting comfortable at training."

"(Nonu)'s probably one of the best players to ever pull on that 12 jersey, just the way he plays with the physicality he brings and his smarts around the game. I'd like to add that passing and kicking into my game."

He'll have a prime chance to test himself against incumbent Wallabies duo Lalakai Foketi and Izaia Perese when the Reds and Waratahs clash in this weekend's Santos Festival of Rugby.

"They're good boys, it'll be good to play our trial against the Tahs. It's always a fun one against whether it's here or during the season, especially out in Roma," Paisami said.

Incoming national coaches Joe Schmidt and Jo Yapp will be keen observers in Roma with both the men and women set to meet under lights in Roma.

The Super Rugby Pacific and Super W trials between Queensland Reds and NSW Waratahs will be shown LIVE and exclusive on Stan Sport.