POWERFUL wing Cooper Vuna has the ability to light up the Aviva Premiership — and he’s a popular figure with Warriors’ supporters.
The 28-year-old burst on to the Sixways scene in March and scored eight tries in nine appearances, including a hat- trick at Cornish Pirates, as Warriors secured promotion from the Championship.
Vuna, who won two caps for Australia in 2012, has worked hard on his fitness ahead of Worcester’s return to Eng - lish rugby’s top tier.
“Before I came to Worcester, I had spent the last couple of years playing in Japan and they have a lot of different things over there,” said the former Toshiba Brave Lupus player.
“It’s good to be back in a professional environment and getting my body to where it should be, especially with us going into the Premier ship. My weight has always been a problem but we have come up with a plan, with the training and the conditioning, and we are heading in the right direction.
“I was carrying a bit of weight last year and I needed to get back into shape so I am capable of being in the best position for the season.
“It was good to get out, go to France during pre-season and to change the scenery a bit. It’s been tough and I wouldn’t say it’s been the hardest in my career — but it’s been up there.”
Vuna, who has previously spent three years with Melbourne Rebels, had a significant impact as Warriors edged a remarkable two-legged Championship play-off final against Bristol in May.
But he admitted it wasn’t cut-and-dry that he would be returning to Worcester this term.
“We weren’t fully sure after the Bristol game where my future would be heading,” he said.
“I had a fair idea where I was at that stage but there were still a few things in the background.
“I knew after that Bristol game I did not want to go away from so much excite - ment. I knew Dean Ryan had a plan that was going somewhere and I wanted to buy into it.
“It’s good to be back. Now we know it’s the Premiership, it’s a challenge. I am all about challenges and I think all the boys are on top of it.”
In addition to his rugby un - ion background, Vuna has enjoyed a career in rugby league, earning a call-up for Tonga and playing for New Zealand Warriors and Newcastle Knights.
He has been impressed with the influence on Warriors’ squad of former Northampton Saints star Phil Dowson, the vastly-experienced ex- England international.
“Phil is a great leader and we need someone like that in the middle — someone who is going to put their hand up and take us forward,” said Vuna.
“For an outside back you need someone to do the hard yards and it will be good to have Gerrit-Jan van Velze in there as well.
“We will have got two fantastic leaders and will definitely go forward as a unit.
“Dean has a plan and most of the boys have a plan and we have to achieve those goals.I am excited about the season ahead.”
Vuna missed two recent pre-season friendlies after returning home for personal reasons.