Cooper injury to open Rebels door for Toomua
Melbourne - Matt Toomua looks set to make his debut for the Rebels following an injury to flyhalf Quade Cooper.
Toomua has arrived in Melbourne from England and is set to train with his new team-mates later on Monday ahead of their Friday clash against the Bulls.
The inside back was originally expected to return to Australia after his Premiership season with Leicester finished on May 18.
While that would have put him in the frame for a Super Rugby return against the Sunwolves, the plan was to put a week of training under his belt with his debut likely to come a week later against the Waratahs in Melbourne.
With Cooper suffering a head knock in the 54th minute against the Reds at the weekend, that equation changed.
Cooper could yet play in Friday’s match against the Bulls at AAMI Park with the flyhalf still going through his concussion protocols but Toomua’s return gives the Rebels the luxury of an extra playmaking option.
In the wake of Cooper’s concussion, it is believed the Rebels went back to Leicester to request a release and this time the Tigers were open to the idea, letting him return to Australia a week early.
In England, the Tigers are 10 points clear of the relegation zone with one regular round to go, ensuring they will play top level rugby next year.
With the side well out of finals contention, there is little on the line for the team apart from pride in the final regular fixture.
Rebels coach Dave Wessels said on Friday that Toomua’s impending addition would take some of the toll off Cooper, who had played virtually every minute of the season before Friday’s Reds clash.
Reece Hodge stepped into the prime playmaking spot when Cooper exited on Friday and was strong in a 30-24 win but 10 is not his first-choice spot.
Toomua’s early return could also be a boost for Australia, with the back available to take part in next weekend’s Wallabies camp in Brisbane ahead of September’s Rugby World Cup.
Though his form has been inconsistent in England this season, his ability as a 10 and 12 makes him a valuable commodity for the national outfit.
Cooper is one of just two big-name injury concerns for the Rebels this week.
Lock Adam Coleman is battling with a shoulder injury that has kept him out for the past fortnight while hooker Jordan Uelese made a successful return to club rugby last weekend and could play for a second-string Rebels team against the Japan 'A' Wolfpack this weekend.