Melbourne Rebels posted a positive start to their 2019 Super Rugby season, which included two wins in the opening four weeks against the Brumbies, who take on the Jaguares in the first of the competition’s semi-finals.
That early momentum faded, though, as the Rebels ended up finishing second in the Australian conference with a record of just seven wins in their 16 games, a total that saw them manage to finish only 11th on the overall log and comfortably out of play-off contention.
There were moments of magic between Will Genia and Quade Cooper in the half-backs, as the tournament-winning combination from the Reds in 2011 reunited in Melbourne. But with Genia now reported to be heading to Japan after the World Cup, head coach David Wessels has moved to bolster his options at scrum-half.
Fijian international Frank Lomani, who was previously part of the Rebels squad in 2018, has agreed to a two-year deal with the franchise where he will compete with former Australian under-20 Harrison Goddard.
SIGNED, SEALED & DELIVERED
Fiji international scrumhalf Frank Lomani will be calling Melbourne home from 2020 ?
— Melbourne Rebels (@MelbourneRebels) June 28, 2019
“Signing with the Melbourne Rebels is a dream come true for me,” said Lomani. “I’m looking forward to developing my game in a world-class environment and picking up as much as I can from my new team-mates.”
Michael Ruru, the only other scrum-half currently on the Rebels roster, is off to Bayonne, who recently secured their promotion back to the Top 14.
Lomani, 23, has been one of the standout performers for the Fijian Drua side since their inclusion in Australia’s National Rugby Championship, as well as featuring for the Barbarians in their game against Argentina at Twickenham last year. Since making his debut for Fiji against Samoa in 2017, Lomani has gone on to win eight caps.
The young No9 is one of four scrum-halves included in Fiji’s 42-man squad for the upcoming Pacific Nations Cup and, barring injury or a drop in form, is likely to be one of the 31-man contingent that heads to Japan later this year.
Australian and New Zealand Super Rugby franchises have often been reluctant to bring in capped players from the Pacific Island nations. However, with the player exoduses to Europe and Japan rising to new levels thanks to the Rugby World Cup, they cannot afford to turn down players as talented as Lomani.
Melbourne Rebels general manager Nick Ryan explained: “Frank is a guy we’ve had our eye on for a while now, particularly after the way he dominated the NRC last season.
“Spending so much time in the national squad has certainly fast-tracked his development. There’s no doubt he will emerge as one of the bright stars at this year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.”
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