'It was a great selection call': To'omua happy to shift away from preferred position

Super Rugby - AU
by Christy Doran

He might want to wear the No.10 jersey for the Wallabies, but utility back Matt To'omua says he's happy to play wherever at club level if it leads to the Rebels winning more.

For the first time in 2020 To'omua shifted to inside-centre to accommodate Andrew Deegan at fly-half on Friday night.

The tactical decision by Dave Wessels proved a coaching masterstroke by Dave Wessels as the Rebels surprised the ladder-leading Brumbies 30-12 in the wet.

The Rebels out-kicked the Brumbies and forced them into uncharacteristic errors with their pressure and simple game-plan of playing the ball at the other end of the field paying dividends.

But even in attack, the Rebels looked more slick with To'omua predominately at second five-eighth.

Predominantly because for the Rebels' opening try, it was To'omua who jumped into first-receiver before passing on to Deegan who with quick hands sent Reece Hodge in to score out wide.

 

Two hours after that opening try To'omua and Wessels were sitting next to each other under the Leichhardt Oval grandstand, but there was no kicking the coach's legs under the table with the playmaker more than happy to play his role.

"No, as much as I like making it about me, it's not about me," the 30-year-old veteran of 52 Tests said.

"No, to be fair, I came in and I sat at the 10 number and I was like 'shoot, move over'.

"It was a great selection call. You look at Deegs how he played, I thought we moved the ball better at the back there.

"I'll play the role that we need to play. We'll take 30-12. It doesn't matter what position you're playing. At the end of the day, Billy Meakes was playing flanker and we'll play anywhere if we get the win."

The decision to shift To'omua could, however, have ramifications for his desire to be conductor of the Wallabies' attack later in the year.

Ever since To'omua returned from Leicester Tigers, the inside back has made no secret of his desire to wear the No.10 jersey.

It's a debate that has existed for the best part of a decade, whether To'omua is a fly-half or inside-centre?

That debate looks set to continue under new Wallabies coach Dave Rennie, who earlier in the day said he was "excited" by To'omua's desire to wear the 10 jersey.

"He wants to play 10 which is exciting from my perspective," said Rennie, speaking from the Gold Coast in his first press conference since making his permanent move to Australia.

"We're in a positive position there looking forward but I know Matt might be playing 12 but he definitely wants to be 10."

The offshore departures of Christian Lealiifano and Bernard Foley have left the door open for someone to grab hold of the position.

It also extends to his biggest competitor for the jersey, James O'Connor, who is in line to return to chief playmaking position for hte first time since wearing the No.10 jersey against the British and Irish Lions in 2013.

One cannot discount young gun Noah Lolesio either, with the rookie capturing the eye of the Wallabies' coaching team before his hamstring injury, while Will Harrison also poked his head up during the Waratahs' 45-12 hammering of the Reds on Saturday night.

While To'omua said the new competition structure allowed for head to head battles each week, he added that playing a part in your side's success would have the duel benefit of fpushing your case for higher honours too.

"He's (Rennie) probably been watching all of them as well," To'omua said.

"One thing that's great about Super Rugby AU is there's five teams so you've got four people you're competing with for a spot really, so it kind of becomes simple if you're looking at that equation.

"In terms of Wallabies stuff, it's quite motivating for a lot of the guys, obviously Dave keeps a close eye on that. There's a lot of little side stories and I think the main story for us is the little piece that we're putting together in terms of really building into the year and trying to get a win there."