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Wallabies star eased back into action following teammate's retirement

By AAP
(Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)

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After already losing one Super Rugby captain to career-ending concussion symptoms, the Melbourne Rebels are taking an ultra cautious approach with Matt Toomua.

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Dane Haylett-Petty was forced into retirement earlier this month after a long-term struggle that kept him sidelined through 2021 while his Wallabies and Rebels teammate Toomua missed the current UK tour after a head knock.

The 31-year-old’s last test was in August against the All Blacks and Toomua suffered the blow during a trial game between a Wallabies ‘B’ team and the Western Force in early September.

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The veteran inside centre, who returned to Rebels training this week, isn’t doing any contact training.

“He doesn’t have any lingering issues but we’re taking it really easy with him,” coach Kevin Foote told AAP.

“There’s no contact activity for him or anything like that, we will just slowly drip it in but he’s come back and he’s looking really happy and it’s good to have him back.

“We will take our time with him; running will be no problem and just getting up to fitness … but we will be really conservative with his contact.”

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Toomua captained the Rebels during the 2021 Super Rugby AU and Trans-Tasman seasons in the absence of Haylett-Petty and in May extended his contract through to the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

With Toomua’s history of concussion – including four other separate incidents – the Rebels can’t afford to lose him from a severely depleted backline.

They are already missing their biggest star in test winger Marika Koroibete, who is shifting his career to Japan, while Fiji halfback Frank Lomani has also departed for the UK.

Wallabies utility back Reece Hodge is battling be fit for round one of Super Rugby Pacific in February after pectoral surgery.

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Hodge tore his pec early in Australia’s test match in Japan last month.

Foote said the 27-year-old was determined to be ready for the Rebels’ opening round clash with the Western Force.

“They’re saying four to five months but Reece is the ultimate professional,” Foote said.

“He does physio on physio and I spoke to him last week and he said that he will be ready for that first game, that’s his mindset.

“He’s in great spirits considering the frustration of getting hurt as he was getting his chance as (test) fullback.”

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