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Rebels boss explains omission of youngster in favour of Matt Toomua

(Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)

The Rebels have turned to Wallabies veteran Matt Toomua to steady their Super Rugby Pacific ship as they return to Melbourne for their first home game in 287 days.


Toomua starts at five-eighth with young playmaker Carter Gordon moved to the bench on Saturday night against Western Force after he produced a mixed bag in the heavy opening-round loss to Queensland.

Rather than a strict demotion, coach Kevin Foote said it was part of the learning process for 21-year-old Gordon, who is still finding his feet as a Super Rugby five-eighth.

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“Obviously, one of the things we didn’t do well on the weekend was game management and Pup (Toomua) brings a lot of experience in that space,” Foote said on Friday.

“It just gives a good voice for us on our attacking strategy and our game management.

“We want to make sure we look after Carter and playing him off the bench takes the pressure off … we’re making sure that he doesn’t feel like the world’s on his shoulders, we’re just taking our time with him.”

Skipper Michael Wells said the Rebels’ pride was “dented” by the 23-5 loss to the Reds and they were desperate to repay home fans who had only seen them play at home five times in almost two years.


The Rebels had a captain’s run at AAMI Park on Friday, but have otherwise only managed to get on the ground once this year for a team photo.

“We had the captain’s run out there today and a big part of that was familiarising guys with it,” Wells said.

“A few guys haven’t played there ever so it’s getting us used to the surroundings and taking the aura away from it.

“We’ve spoken about who we’re representing in terms of the crowd, not what we’re representing them on, in terms of the field.”


The Force blew a rare chance to upset the Brumbies on home turf, going down 29-23, and Foote predicted they would be fired up.

“They’re going to feel heartbroken from last week – that was an awesome try they scored just before the hooter and then they didn’t manage to seal that out.

“They’ll come with a lot of confidence and good for them , let them come.”

Ray Nu’u will make his run-on debut at inside centre for the Rebels after catching the eye of recruiters in New Zealand’s NPC.

Foote said the 23-year-old was built for the role.

“Ray is a bulldozer – he’s very strong and purpose built for 12,” Foote said.

“He is no nonsense, but has actually got really good skills as well so I think he’ll also add another dimension with Toomua at 10-12 – that’s a very physical inside pairing.”


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