By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Unable to sleep in, jetlagged Wallabies back Matt Toomua rose early to read the Melbourne Rebels’ playbook after a whirlwind trip home to Australia over the weekend, but feels ready enough to help the side qualify for the Super Rugby playoffs.
The Leicester Tigers inside centre received an SOS call from the Rebels on Saturday, after the Australian team’s flyhalf Quade Cooper suffered concussion in the victory over the Queensland Reds.
The English club, safe from relegation ahead of the last round of the regular season, obligingly released the 42-cap Wallaby, who hours later was on a plane home.
Toomua played all his Super Rugby for the ACT Brumbies before heading to Britain in 2016, so barely knows his new team mates at the Rebels.
He also had to scour his emails to work out where his wife Ellyse Perry, the Australian cricket all-rounder, had set up their Melbourne home.
Physically, though, he said he would be ready to slot in for Saturday’s home match against South Africa’s Bulls at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium on Saturday.
“Fitness-wise I’m ready as I’ve been going for 30-40 odd weeks now and in terms of time-zone changes, playing international rugby you get used to it,” the 29-year-old told reporters at training on Tuesday.
“The playing style is probably the other thing. The Rebels, they have a bit of a unique playing style, so getting used to that will be the biggest challenge.
“Jetlag gets you up early so this morning I was going through it all and writing it all down but under pressure we will see how that goes.
“There will be bit of cramming before the final exam if I’m lucky enough (to be selected), or next week.”
Toomua will add more class to a back-line already laden with Wallabies, including fullback-captain Dane Haylett-Petty, scrumhalf Will Genia and utility Reece Hodge.
Flyhalf Cooper, also bidding for a spot on Michael Cheika’s World Cup squad, may deny the versatile Toomua an immediate starting spot in the number 10 jersey if he passes concussion protocols and is deemed fit by Wednesday.
Toomua sounded pleased to be back Down Under, however, describing his first training session with the Rebels in late-autumn sunshine as warmer than any he could remember at Leicester in the spring.
There was also the matter of joining a team going places, with the Rebels second in the Australian conference behind the Brumbies and a good chance to qualify for their first playoffs.
“I’m super excited to be part of a team that is on the rise,” Toomua said.
“I enjoy the attacking style – the flatness of the attack is what people talk about and there is depth in the squad as well and hopefully I can help that.”
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)