To'omua's whirlwind journey to Super Rugby return

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Matt To’omua’s planned Rebels move has been public knowledge for months but the utility’s first day in Melbourne ultimately came somewhat unexpectedly.

The utility back confirmed a deal with the Rebels back in August last year, ahead of his final season with Premiership side the Leicester Tigers, but was never going to be available until the European year ended.

Nine months later, he's arrived in Melbourne and though it was only a week earlier than scheduled, his trip was planned and completed in just a day.

To’omua was watching as Rebels flyhalf Quade Cooper was taken off with a head knock against the Reds and didn’t think much of it, the next morning his phone was ringing to put his moving plans into fruition.

“I woke up at 9am and by 11am my flight was booked and by 9pm I was on the plane,” he told media in Melbourne.

“So it all happened super quick but it was all going to happen a week later anyway.

“I was living out of a bag in an Air BnB in the centre of Leicester so I just zipped up the bag and jumped on the plane. It was quite seamless.”

His cricketer wife Ellyse Perry organised much of their move to the Victorian capital, to the point where To’omua had to search for his own address when he went to order an Uber home from training.

“I came straight here from the airport and I didn’t know how to get home yesterday,” he said.

“I had go into my emails and find the address because my wife found the place where we are living.

“I caught the train to work so I feel like I am already part of the community straight away.”

To’omua could be in the mix to play 10 for the Rebels as soon as Friday with Cooper still following return-to-play concussion protocols and said he would be ready to step up if required.

“I am not sure yet actually, I would love to be able to give you an answer but Dave and I will have that conversation soon,” he said.

“We’ll see how it goes. It may depend on how Quade pulls up as well.

“Fitness-wise I am more than ready to play.

“I have been going 30-40 weeks now. In terms of timezone changes, one of the benefits of playing international rugby is you get used to it.”

The final five games of the season will be pivotal for the Rebels as they fight for a maiden finals berth.

To'omua won't be eligible to play in finals should they make it, having still been a part of Leicester's setup at the April 1 squad deadline, but said he hoped to make a contribution to help them get there.

"I will probably still have a role to play in terms of training," he said.

"I see myself coming here and doing what I can. It might be case of lightening the load for guys who are playing in the finals.

"Maybe giving them a week off. It might be a case of getting them into the finals. We don’t know how that looks.

"We do know in this case I won’t qualify for that. We will see how that unfolds."

To’omua’s early return also puts him in the frame to attend the next Wallabies camp, in Brisbane this weekend, with the World Cup looming.

He is very much in the World Cup frame and said he had met with Wallabies coach Michael Cheika in England in recent months.

The 29-year-old said he certainly wasn’t making any presumptions about his Test credentials, despite being the incumbent Wallabies 10.

“After the season we had last year, there's probably not too many people who can probably firmly say I'll be wearing a starting XV jersey this year,” he said.

“That's clearly an ambition of mine, I'm sure it's an ambition of every other person who plays flyhalf or inside centre or winger or whatever.

“That, in a weird way, starts now so looking forward to that.”

The Rebels take on the Bulls on Friday May 17, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Kayo and via RADIO. Buy tickets here.