Wallabies hooker Jordan Uelese will have a familar bodyguard on duty when he returns to action for Melbourne on Friday night - his “little” brother Junior.
Returning from an 11-month knee reconstruction rehab, Uelese will line up for Melbourne’s second team, the Rising, in a curtain raiser clash with the Japanese Wolfpack team at AAMI Park.
The Wolfpack are the “B” team of the Japanese national side and the clash will take place before the Rebels meet the Bulls.
Uelese, who blew a knee in June last year on the eve of the Ireland series, returned in Sydney club rugby last weekend for Gordon and will partner up with his 18-year-old brother Junior in the Rising front row.
Junior, as pointed out by Uelese, is anything but at 130kg. Oveleni “Junior" Uelese was raised in Melbourne but went to boarding school at Scots College in Wellington, New Zealand - where the Uelese family originate.
Junior Uelese played for the New Zealand Schools Barbarians team at the end of last year but came back to Melbourne and has been training as a development player with the Rebels.
"He has just turned 18 years old. When you are a Pacific Islander player and you are called Junior you know he is the complete opposite,” Jordan Uelese said on Wednesday.
"He is a big 130kg-plus prop and I have never played with him in my life. It will be exciting to back down with him. He is a tight-head prop and I am a hooker, so it will be pretty special for me and my family.
"It will be his first taste, I guess of pro footy.
"He is from Australia but he moved back to go to boarding school, Scots College in Wellington. A big rugby school in Wellington, so he was fortunate I guess to hone his skills there. But he wants to come back home and play for the Rebels and higher honours, so that’s where his heart lies.
"I am happy for him to come back and be in the set-up.
When he finished up with the New Zealand schoolboys he came straight back here and wanted to work with us. He has been around the set-up, Dave has wanted him to learn from the older heads so that’s been great for him, to be exposed to the higher level. He is grateful for the opportunity.”
It’s a big match for both Uelese brothers.
After a painfully slow rehabilitation on a knee and shoulder injuries, Jordan Uelese is a step closer to a return for the Rebels’ Super Rugby side.
Uelese has shed seven kilograms and says he is “in the best shape of my life”.
Rebels and Wallabies staff have been taking it very slow with Uelese’s return, playing it cautiously so the big hooker can be ready for a finals push and a possible World Cup spot.
"The body is a bit sore. I am a bit banged up. I played 60 minutes up in the Shute Shield for Gordon,” Uelese said.
"It took the first 10-20 minutes of the game to get a feel for the game and catch my breath but it was great to get out there again. I have been in rehab for 11 months now so it was good to get to get back out there.
"The knee is fine, I definitely came out of the game unscathed. Just normal body soreness given I hadn’t played a long time.
"The competition we have here in the hooker spot is great. Anaru (Rangi) and ‘Roachy’ (Hugh Roach) have been playing really well and I am not going to just walk back into the team. I have to prove myself again.”