Samu Kerevi and Taniela Tupou are being courted by the Melbourne Rebels. Photo: Getty Images

Exclusive: To’omua’s departure paves the way for the biggest Super Rugby defectors in history

In news likely to have a knock-on effect, Matt To’omua will head overseas to Japan to clear the way for the rebels to go after two of the biggest names in Australian rugby.

By releasing To’omua from his lucrative contract a year earlier, the rebels prepare to pursue Wallabies star Samu Kerevi.

He’s not alone either, with the rebels trying to pounce on the rumble of the Queensland Reds as they try to lure Taniela Tupou to Melbourne after next year’s World Cup.

The player movement comes as Rugby Australia moves to a new contract model, where the national body itself will sign up to 35 players. The model has yet to be set in stone, but it will likely come into effect before the 2024 season.

If the Rebels’ wildest dreams came true, the Super Rugby franchise would immediately become a real force after years of underperformance.

Matt To’omua’s departure from the rebels could make Samu Kerevi a viable option Photo: Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

But they face competition to catch both men, let alone one of Dave Rennie’s main Wallabies, while up-and-coming Force coach Simon Cron also wants to lure Tupou.

Cron was furious to learn that Argentina international tight-head prop Santiago Madrano had already booked his ticket from Perth when he agreed to the terms earlier in the year.

Knowing the importance of having a strong, tight prop, Cron is on the hunt for a world-class first-rower, and whispers have long linked Tupou with a possible move west.

The Force is desperate for a great player not only to improve their roster but also to inject some bullish and winning attitude into their team.


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Still, he can be defeated by the rebels, who hope the arrival of the Reds whore Alex Mafi will lure Tupou south.

It is also believed that Tupou has a close relationship with former Reds coach Nick Stiles, who was announced as Rebel general manager after the 2021 season.

If he were to move from the Reds it would be a huge blow to the Reds and mark the biggest transfer between franchises in Super Rugby history.

However, as a source close to the situation said, “Ownership is 90 percent”.

Until Tupou makes a decision about his future, he is the Reds’ jewel to lose and as he remains with the franchise for next season’s World Cup season, a lot can change between now and then, especially if there are changes in the high-performance setup.

The Queensland Reds have locked Taniela Tupou until 2023, but they face an uphill battle to keep him out of the World Cup in France. Photo: Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

A sabbatical in Japan would likely be included in such a contract to help Tupou make up for the lost dollars by staying in Australia.

In preparation, the rebels will extend the giant prop of Pone Fa’amausili for a year.

The short-term deal works for Fa’amausili, as having missed most of the Super Rugby season due to injuries, he has yet to unleash his incredible potential.

Fa’amausili has been included in Rennie’s 35-man Wallabies squad and should Tupou miss the test due to a calf injury, the fellow giant prop will likely come off the bench to make his debut after a couple of years of injury.

However, if he shines on the international stage, Fa’amausili will be able to command a huge asking price abroad, where tight props are seen as gold.

Surely RA might be tempted to toss the sink at Fa’amausili, whose noxious ball barrel, delivering a fast ball, and hulking frame is phenomenal.

The front row isn’t the only area the Rebels are looking at.

Kerevi, who has one season left with Suntory, is considering returning to Australia.

The 30-year-old is the Wallabies’ main defender and is seen as a certainty to play in midfield at the World Cup next year, whether or not he returns to Australia.

Samu Kerevi is strongly considering returning to Australia. Photo: Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

Should he return, his return has an added advantage.

After RA modified their eligibility laws to allow three players to choose from abroad, if Kerevi returned home, he would allow Rennie to choose one of the high bars abroad, such as Will Skelton or Rory Arnold to complement Marika Koroibete and Quade Cooper.

Perhaps even Japan-tied Tom Banks, or even uncapped star Isaac Lucas, could come into the picture despite having left Australia less than a season after graduating from the Junior Wallabies, as the fullback’s position is the greatest. represents the national team’s weakness.

Lucas, who is believed to have re-signed in Japan, made League One Team of the Year despite his side struggling, and he could be taking on a Damien McKenzie-esque role in the Wallabies.

It is clear that Kerevi is looking for a long-term deal and that he could be an option to lead the Wallabies against the British and Irish lions in 2025.

RA will have to think outside the plaza about how to reward the star center if they want to lure him home, with his current club Suntory and French clubs queuing up to throw the sink at him.

The Melbourne Rebels want to lure Taniela Tupou south. Photo: Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

To’omua’s decision to leave before the World Cup exodus creates some cash flow.

It is expected that the two-time World Cup Wallaby will move to Japan.

His departure a year after Dane Haylett-Petty retired from a concussion means the Rebels suddenly have room to move.

If they manage to catch at least one of the two names mentioned above, they will become a force as they have some promising players to complement Rob Leota and Andrew Kellaway.

The Reds are the most vulnerable franchise right now and are at risk of losing the strong advance they’ve made in recent years.

It comes as pressure continues to mount on Reds coach and dual international Brad Thorn, who failed to lead the 2021 Super Rugby AU winners to victory over the New Zealand opposition this season.

The Reds were the only Australian team to record a win over the Kiwi opposition.

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