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Rebels boosted by return of Wallabies star ahead of Crusaders clash

(Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

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The first of Melbourne’s “Big Three” will make a timely return to AAMI Park on Sunday as the Rebels take on perennial rugby champions the Crusaders.


While Melbourne’s recent Super Rugby Pacific form has been on the up, reinforcements the size of Wallabies back rower Rob Leota will give the team a boost as they prepare to host the inaugural Super Round.

Teams from Australia, New Zealand as well as newcomers Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua will play off in seven-game schedule over three days starting Friday.

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What the All Blacks squad could look like halfway through Super Rugby Pacific | Aotearoa Rugby Pod
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What the All Blacks squad could look like halfway through Super Rugby Pacific | Aotearoa Rugby Pod

The Super W final between NSW and Fijiana Drua will also be played on Saturday afternoon.

Leota as well as injured Wallabies squad members lock Trevor Hosea (foot) and prop Pone Fa’amausili (calf) are yet to play this season and have been sorely missed.

Together, the Melbourne-raised trio bring around 360kg to the pack.

While the latter two are still a week or two off, Leota has finally overcome a troublesome hamstring to return.


“I was going to come back for round five and the week before I redid it and my time got pushed out to this round,” Leota told AAP.

“Watching the struggle we had at the start was definitely tough to see because I think it has taken us a bit to get our game plan running but we’ve got two wins on the board now and we’re showing the real rugby that we want to play.”

After making his Test debut against South Africa last September, the 25-year-old racked up four caps which was another reason why his delayed start to the Super Rugby Pacific season was so frustrating.

“I was definitely keen to get back – it was a really great year for myself and mostly unexpected,” Leota said.


“I just had pure excitement in the growth I had playing for Australia so coming back and getting injured wasn’t ideal.

“I’m just so keen to get out there and play some footy.”

With COVID-19 impacting the early draw, the Crusaders are the first of the Kiwi contingent for the Rebels.

After 10 titles to their name the Christchurch-based outfit have won their last five matches against Melbourne by an average margin of 44 points.

The Rebels aren’t alone with the Crusaders winning 24 of their last 25 clashes with Australian teams.

Leota said Melbourne, as hosts of Super Round, would be eager to put on a good show.

“The Crusaders are always a big challenge but it’s pretty easy to get up for,” he said.

“We’ve got a bit of an underdog mentality but we’re also excited and we’ve got we got a lot of confidence in ourselves and what we’ve been building.

“Super Round is a massive thing for rugby in Victoria as we try to grow the game and getting a good result against a well-respected Kiwi team will do a lot.”


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