The Queensland Rugby Union (QRU) has agreed to release St.George Queensland Reds winger Henry Speight to French Rugby club Biarritz Olympique Pays Basque on a three-year deal.
Signed through 2021 with Queensland, the 32-year-old joined the Reds in late 2019 following nine seasons with the Brumbies in Canberra.
Ironically, Speight made his Queensland debut against his former club at GIO Stadium in Round 1 and went on to start in each of the Reds seven Super Rugby matches this year and score three tries.
QRU CEO David Hanham said: “Henry has been a fantastic servant to Australian Rugby over the past decade.
“Biarritz Olympique have a great Rugby history. They have been respectful during this process and we are pleased that Henry and his family will get the opportunity to spend the next three years in France.,” said Hanham.
Henry Speight said: “I would like to take the opportunity to say a heartfelt and enormous thank you to the entire organisation that is the Queensland Reds.
“Firstly, the opportunity to experience an elite Rugby program which is surrounded and upheld by quality people, who have a genuine care for the person and the professional. This group and the organisation have demonstrated that the Reds are a destination club that will allow players to be their absolute best and the strong culture here is something that I know that I will deeply miss.
“My family and I are unbelievably grateful that, from the Board down, our request was dealt with respect and that the organisation was ultimately sympathetic to the opportunity that lies in front of us. I know that this place has an exciting future and I look forward to being able to say with enormous pride that I pulled on the Queensland Reds jersey, when the organisation achieves the success that it deserves,” Speight added.
Reds head coach Brad Thorn said: “Henry has been great for our program. He is a true gentleman and a family man who brought plenty of experience and knowledge.
“He was well respected and a lot of the guys here looked-up to him for advice both on-and-off the field.
“We’ll miss Henry, but we’re happy to send him along his way. He’s contributed so much for Australian Rugby for more than a decade. We wish him and his family all the best for their next chapter in France.
“When one door closes, another one opens. It’s awesome we have another quality player in Suliasi Vunivalu set to join our program. It’ll be exciting to see him battle fellow Fijian Filipo Daugunu and others within our squad for those wing spots next year,” said Thorn.
After it was announced last year, Reds fans can look forward to seeing Melbourne Storm speedster Suliasi Vunivalu, who took-up a two-year deal from 2021.
A schoolboy Rugby Union talent in New Zealand, Vunivalu will make the switch back to the 15-man code following several years in the NRL.
During his time in rugby league, the electrifying winger broke the record for the most tries of any player in his first two seasons at the Storm – scoring 23 tries in 2016 and again in 2017, as the Daly M’s Top Try Scorer in both years.
Vunivalu has also scored 12 tries in eight Tests for the Fiji Bati, including nine during the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.