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Rebels expect big things from Taniela Tupou after ‘smart recruitment'

(Photo by May Bailey/Getty Images)

Melbourne expect superstar Wallabies prop Taniela Tupou to hit the ground running, with their new recruit to start training with the Super Rugby Pacific club early next month.


Signed from Queensland, Tupou will lead a beefed-up pack alongside Test forward Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, who spent last season playing for UK club Northampton.

One-Test All Black midfielder Matt Proctor, England-capped halfback Jack Maunder and Reds utility back Filipo Daugunu are also moving to Melbourne, with all Super sides unveiling their squads on Thursday.


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The Wallabies’ World Cup campaign was dealt a massive blow when Tupou suffered a hamstring injury, which saw him miss crucial pool games.

But the 27-year-old was able to turn out for the Barbarians invitational team against Wales last weekend, and Melbourne coach Kevin Foote said he would be available to train on December 4, when the representative players were due back.

The Rebels now have Test forwards Rob Leota, Pone Fa’amausili, Josh Kemeny and Jordan Uelese all up for selection.

“Taniela’s been really good – our medical team have been in touch with all the Wallabies players to support them,” Foote told AAP.


“He comes in on December 4, so we get the World Cup guys pretty early.

“The scrum is pretty exciting for us and it’s smart recruitment.”

Former Reds backrower/lock Salakaia-Loto, who started training with the Rebels after missing selection for the France tournament, has already made an impression.

“Lukhan is a massive guy – he’s 130 kilograms and he’s a no-nonsense  guy,” Foote said.

“He’s come back to Australia and he really wants to win something, so I think the timing of us getting him is pretty awesome.”

Among other squad changes, incoming Queensland coach Les Kiss has added All Blacks pairing Alex Hodgman and Jeffery Toomaga-Allen in one of his few big plays to offset the loss of Tupou.


Teenager Frankie Goldsbrough – one of Queensland’s most sought-after talents – has also been elevated to the squad.

Experts say Goldsbrough is a realistic chance of joining the likes of Jordan Petaia, Ben Tune and Daniel Herbert as an 18-year-old Super Rugby debutant.

The NSW Waratahs have lost World Cup playmaker Ben Donaldson to the Western Force, and retired former captain Michael Hooper.

Miles Amatosero is set to make his mark, with the 21-year-old second-rower, who stands more than 200cm and weighs 125kg, returning to Sydney after a stint in France.

The ACT Brumbies, who were Australia’s best-performing team in 2023, have remained settled apart from the departure of halfback Nic White to the Western Force and Pete Samu to France.

Skipper Allan Alaalatoa is expected to miss the opening rounds as he recovers from an Achilles injury.

As well as luring Wallabies halves Donaldson and White to the west, the Force have also recruited former All Black Atu Moli and Reds prop Harry Hoopert to bolster their front row, while backrower Will Harris has joined from the Waratahs.


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Jon 23 hours ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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