Queensland Reds release Henry Speight, look to Suliasi Vunivalu

Wallabies winger Henry Speight has been granted an early release to join French Pro D2 club Biarritz Olympique, the Australian club announced on Sunday.

Speight will link with the former European champions on a three-year deal later this year, paving the way for the arrival of Melbourne Storm winger Suliasi Vunivalu for next year.

It is unclear what part Speight will play in Super Rugby AU, which kicks off on July 3, with the Reds in the coming months.

"I would like to take the opportunity to say a heartfelt and enormous thank you to the entire organisation that is the Queensland Reds," Speight said via a media release.

"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."

Reds coach Brad Thorn paid tribute to Speight but also pointed to Vunivalu's arrival as the Reds look to the future; Speight's departure coming on the back of the ugly exit of Izack Rodda, Isaac Lucas and Harry Hockings last month.

"Henry has been great for our program. He is a true gentleman and a family man who brought plenty of experience and knowledge," Thorn said.

"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."

Speight's departure may help free up funds to ensure Vunivalu makes it to Ballymore after the Storm winger last week admitted he was slightly nervous about Australian rugby's financial position.