Wallabies stars Samu Kerevi and Taniela Tupou chased by Melbourne Rebels, Matt To’omua, Queensland Reds

In news that will likely set off a domino effect, Matt To’omua will travel overseas to Japan, paving the way for the Rebels to tackle two of the biggest names in Australian rugby.

By releasing To’omua a year early from his lucrative contract, the Rebels are preparing to hunt out-of-contract Wallabies star Samu Kerevi.

He’s not alone either, with the Rebels set to pounce on rumblings from the Queensland Reds as they try to lure Taniela Tupou to Melbourne after next year’s World Cup.

The player move comes as Rugby Australia moves to a new contract model, where the national body will sign up to 35 players on its own. The model is not yet fixed, but it will probably come into force before the 2024 season.

If the Rebels’ wildest dreams come true, the Super Rugby franchise would instantly become a real force after years of underachievement.

Matt To’omua’s departure from the Rebels could see Samu Kerevi a viable option Photo: Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

But they face competition to snare both men, not to mention one of Dave Rennie’s key Wallabies, new Force trainer Simon Cron, also wanting to lure Tupou.

Cron was livid to discover Argentina international stalwart Santiago Madrano had already booked his ticket to Perth when he agreed to the terms earlier in the year.

Knowing the importance of having a strong tight-headed prop, Cron is on the hunt for a world-class first rower and whispers have long linked Tupou to a possible move west.

The Force is desperate for a marquee player to not only help elevate their roster, but to instill some optimism and a can-do attitude in their team.

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Still, he could be beaten to the punch by the rebels, who will hope the arrival of Reds hooker Alex Mafi will help lure Tupou south.

He also believed Tupou had a close relationship with former Reds manager Nick Stiles, who was announced as Rebels general manager after the 2021 season.

If he left the Reds, it would be a huge blow for the Reds and would represent the biggest transfer between franchises in Super Rugby history.

As a source close to the situation said, however, “possession is 90%”.

Until Tupou makes up his mind on his future, he is the Reds’ jewel to lose and given that he will remain in the franchise for the World Cup season next season, a lot could change by then. , especially if there are changes in the built-in performance.

The Queensland Reds have locked up Taniela Tupou until 2023, but they face a tough fight to keep him beyond the France World Cup. Photo: Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

A sabbatical in Japan would likely be included in such a contract to help Tupou make up for lost dollars staying in Australia.

In preparation, the Rebels will offer giant prop Pone Fa’amausili a one-year extension.

The short-term deal is working for Fa’amausili as after missing the majority of the Super Rugby season through injury he is yet to realize his incredible potential.

Fa’amausili has been included in Rennie’s Wallabies squad of 35 and if Tupou misses the test with a calf injury, the giant journeyman is likely to come off the bench to make his debut after a few injury-riddled years.

However, if he plays internationally, Fa’amausili will be able to command a huge price overseas, where tight-headed props are considered gold.

RA might still be inclined to throw the kitchen sink at Fa’amausili, whose damaging ball run, which provides a fast ball, and towering frame are phenomenal.

The front row isn’t the only area the Rebels are looking at.

Kerevi, who has one season left on his contract with Suntory, plans to return home to Australia.

The 30-year-old is the Wallabies’ most important full-back and is considered certain to play in midfield at the World Cup next year whether or not he returns to Australia.

Samu Kerevi is strongly considering returning to Australia. Photo: Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

If he returns, his return comes with an additional benefit.

After RA changed their eligibility laws to allow three players to be picked overseas, if Kerevi returned home it would allow Rennie to pick one of the big woods overseas like Will Skelton or Rory Arnold to complement fullbacks Marika Koroibete and Quade Cooper.

Perhaps even Japan-bound Tom Banks or even uncapped star Isaac Lucas could fit in the frame despite leaving Australia less than a season after graduating from the Junior Wallabies, as the position full-back is the biggest weakness of the national team.

Lucas, reportedly re-signed from Japan, has been named Ligue 1 Team of the Year despite his side’s struggles and he could play a Damien McKenzie-esque role in the Wallabies.

It is understood Kerevi is looking for a long-term deal and he could be an option to lead the Wallabies against the British and Irish Lions in 2025.

RA will have to think outside the box on how to try to remunerate the star center if they want to lure him home, with his current club Suntory and French clubs lining up to throw the kitchen sink at him .

The Melbourne rebels want to lure Taniela Tupou south. Photo: Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

To’omua’s decision to head ahead of the World Cup exodus opens up cash flow.

The Wallaby World Cup double is expected to move to Japan.

His departure a year after Dane Haylett-Petty retired with a concussion means the Rebels suddenly have room to move.

If they manage to trap at least one of the two aforementioned names, they will become a force as they have a number of promising players to complement Rob Leota and Andrew Kellaway.

The Reds are the most vulnerable franchise right now and they risk losing the strong inroads they have made in recent years.

It comes as pressure continues to mount on Reds manager and two-time international Brad Thorn, who has failed to guide the 2021 Super Rugby AU winners to victory over New Zealand opposition this season.

The Reds were the only Australian side not to record a win over the Kiwi opposition.

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