The Rebels and the Sunwolves marked the announcement of a “strategic partnership” by playing in an informal trial match in Melbourne on Friday.
While it wasn’t a full match, the Australian conference rivals wrapped up their pre-seasons by playing out full-contact 'scenarios' on Gosch’s Paddock, in the shadow of AAMI Park.
The contested sessions – featuring most of the Rebels’ top names - came after opposed scrummaging sessions between the clubs on Tuesday in Melbourne, and ended the Sunwolves’ week-long camp in Australia.
The co-operation between the Rebels and the Sunwolves came as the two clubs announced they’d formalised a partnership that will see them “work closely together to advance their high performance, commercial and diplomatic connectivity.”
The Rebels, the Sunwolves and the Japan Super Rugby Association (JRSA) signed a two-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to continue a relationship that has been going for a year.
The clubs said they’d commited to playing more matches between Japan and the Rebels development teams, in Melbourne and Tokyo.
“This is a game changing partnership for the Melbourne Rebels which symbolises the strengthening of our reach into Japan and our capacity to take the city of Melbourne to the world,” Rebels chairman Paul Docherty said.
“As a Club we have worked tirelessly in recent months to build both a world class high performance Rugby program and a robust commercial portfolio. This new partnership tightens our link into Japanese Rugby and Japan generally, which unlocks great opportunities for bigger picture thinking about government and diplomatic associations.
"This partnership helps grow Rugby in Melbourne and gives us an incredible opportunity to leverage Rugby as a vehicle to promote trade relationships between Japan and Victoria.”
In a Rebels statement, CEO and Chairman of the JSRA and the Sunwolves, Mr Yuji Watase, said: “We are very privileged to enter into this new strategic partnership with the Melbourne Rebels. We have been very good friends for some time now and since our introduction in the competition we have always been extremely impressed with the openness and vision of the Melbourne Rebels who are prepared to be bold and ambitious.”