Matt Toomua returns to Wallabies and signs with Melbourne Rebels

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Matt Toomua is returning to Australia

Matt Toomua has put pen to paper on a two and a half year deal with Rugby Australia and the Melbourne Rebels, to return to Super Rugby next season.

The veteran playmaker is now immediately eligible for the Wallabies’ Bledisloe Cup campaign which kicks off at ANZ Stadium against New Zealand on Saturday August 18.

The 33-Test utility back last played for the Wallabies in the opening Bledisloe Cup Test of 2016 before joining Leicester Tigers in England’s Premiership.

“Leicester have been fantastic to me throughout my time here. The option to return to Australia was something that did exist within my contract, only if a chance to represent the Wallabies was there and, with a Rugby World Cup next year, was ultimately one I couldn’t turn down,” Toomua said.

“As well as a chance to represent my country at a World Cup again, the return home also allows me to be closer to both my wife and family after nearly three years on the opposite side of the world.

“The Rebels are a Club on the rise and I was really impressed after having a few conversations with Dave (Wessels) about his plans for the future.

“I am still very much a Tigers player and, if anything, being able to have this all sorted is more positive than have a decision hanging over my head.

“I absolutely love Leicester, have become close friends with all of my teammates here and want to go out in a successful way,” Toomua.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said: “I’m really excited that Matt has decided to return home. He wanted to come back to play rugby in Australia again and also to represent Australia again.

“It’s a massive boost to the squad and adds to the depth that we’ve built for the broader Wallabies squad in a key position,” Cheika said.

Toomua will be able to serve out his current contract with Leicester in full before joining Melbourne midway through the 2019 Super Rugby season.

At this stage, Toomua will not be considered for selection in Friday night’s Bledisloe Cup trial at Leichhardt Oval.

Matt Toomua

Position: Centre

Height: 182cm

Weight: 90kg

DOB: 2/01/90

Test debut: 2013 v New Zealand, Sydney

Test caps: 33

Test points: 20 (4T)

Super Rugby debut: 2008 v Hurricanes, Canberra

Super Rugby caps: 88

Super Rugby points: 102

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Eddie Jones fears Manu Tuilagi's career may be over after yet another injury setback

Duncan Bech 3/08/2018
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Aki last came up against Tuilagi in a college game 12 years ago.

Eddie Jones fears for Manu Tuilagi‘s future after revealing the England centre has undergone yet another operation.

It has emerged that Tuilagi completed a minor knee procedure at the end of last season and while he is expected to be fit for the start of the upcoming Premiership campaign, he is unable to take part in a 44-man training camp that will be held in south west London this weekend.

The setback is the latest in a career that has been decimated by injury over the last four years and his most recent start for England was against New Zealand in 2014.

Chest, groin, hamstring and repeated knee issues requiring three operations alone have resulted in lengthy spells of rehabilitation and his solitary Test appearance under Jones was as a replacement in the 2016 Six Nations.

England’s head coach is already accustomed to being without his most destructive threequarter ball carrier but is now beginning to worry over his long-term prospects.

Asked if he is concerned for Tuilagi’s future, Jones said: “Yes, 100 per cent. The kid just needs a bit of luck. I know he is working hard at his game.

“He’s that sort of player who puts himself in physical, confrontational positions so we just hope he has a bit of luck.

“We would love to see him back at his best playing with the power, verve, aggression and skill that you see from him.

“If he does that he will certainly be someone we are going to look at very closely.”

While Tuilagi continues to be stuck in limbo, Chris Ashton has edged closer to reviving his international career just weeks after ending his three-season contract at Toulon two years ahead of schedule in order to join Sale.

The former Saracens wing set a new try-scoring record for the Top 14 but his determination to add to his 39 caps, combined with family reasons, inspired his return to the Premiership.

Jones spoke to Ashton before the 31-year-old plundered a hat-trick for the Barbarians against England in May and was quickly persuaded by his intent, immediately elevating him into his pre-season training squad.

Manu Tuilagi in action for Leicester.

Manu Tuilagi in action for Leicester.

“I suppose the definition of encouragement is ‘have you thought about coming back?’ So if that’s encouragement, that’s encouragement,” said Jones, when asked if he had looked to persuade Ashton to return to these shores.

“We had a quick chat and he had a bit of a glint in his eye, which indicated something and that something was that he wanted to come back to England.

“Chris had the idea in his head. He wants to play for England and he sees this as his last opportunity so we’re very pleased that he’s made that decision. We’re looking forward to what he can bring to the table.”

Dylan Hartley will participate in the three-day training camp after missing the summer tour to South Africa due to the concussion that has sidelined him since March.

“Like any of those head injuries, it’s touch and go. You never know when you’re going to recover and how well you’re going to recover, so it’s good to see him back,” Jones said.

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Chris Ashton recalled to England squad

Duncan Bech 3/08/2018
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Chris Ashton has not played for England since 2014.

Chris Ashton has edged towards reviving his England career after Eddie Jones was convinced of his determination by a “glint in his eye.”

Ashton has been included in a 44-man pre-season training squad that will gather in Teddington this weekend just weeks after ending his three-season contract at Toulon two years ahead of schedule in order to join Sale.

The former Saracens wing set a new try-scoring record for the Top 14 but his determination to add to his 39 caps, combined with family reasons, inspired his return to the Gallagher Premiership.

Jones spoke to Ashton before the 31-year-old plundered a hat-trick for the Barbarians against England in May and was quickly persuaded by his intent.

“We had a quick chat and he had a bit of a glint in his eye, which indicated something and that something was that he wanted to come back to England,” Jones said.

“Chris had the idea in his head. He wants to play for England and he sees this as his last opportunity so we’re very pleased that he’s made that decision. We’re looking forward to what he can bring to the table.”

Ashton appeared in Jones’ first squad in January 2016 but had to withdraw after being banned for gouging and in the summer that same year he turned down the chance to tour South Africa with the Saxons due to the birth of his first child.

Further opportunities were limited by another lengthy suspension, this time for biting, and he claimed his disillusionment with the disciplinary process drove him to signing for Toulon, thereby making him unavailable for England.

But a sensational debut season in the Top 14 has persuaded one of the sport’s deadliest finishers that he can still be a force at the highest level.

“Chris is an exceptional player, I think we have seen with his form at Saracens then at Toulon, he has played exceedingly well,” Jones said.

“He’s come back to England because he wants to play for England so he has got the right desire, the right attitude, so it will be good to work with him.”

Dylan Hartley features in the squad that will participate in a three-day training camp that begins on Saturday.

Hartley missed the summer tour to South Africa due to concussion and has not played since the final match of the Six Nations against Ireland at Twickenham, but has returned to full fitness.

“It’s good for Dylan. He got married over the summer and he’s just got back from his honeymoon,” Jones said.

“He’s done some quality pre-season work so it’s great to have him back in the mix. We’re pleased to have him there.”

The only players who were involved against the Springboks not to be present this weekend are flanker Brad Shields, wing Denny Solomona and number eight Billy Vunipola, who was forced home with a recurrence of a fractured arm.

Still missing due to injury, fitness or other are prop Dan Cole, centre Jonathan Joseph, centre Manu Tuilagi, full-back Anthony Watson and scrum-half Danny Care.

England training squad

Backs: C Ashton (Sale), M Brown (Harlequins), D Cipriani (Gloucester), J Cokanasiga (Bath), E Daly (Wasps), N Earle (Harlequins), O Farrell (Saracens), G Ford (Leicester), P Francis (Northampton), G Ibitoye (Harlequins), A Lozowski (Saracens), J Marchant (Harlequins), J May (Leicester), J Olowofela (Leicester), D Robson (Wasps), H Slade (Exeter), B Spencer (Saracens), B Te’o (Worcester), B Youngs (Leicester).

Forwards: L Cowan-Dickie (Exeter), T Curry (Sale), J George (Saracens), D Hartley (Northampton), J Haskell (Northampton), A Hepburn (Exeter), P Hill (Northampton), N Hughes (Wasps), N Isiekwe (Saracens), M Itoje (Saracens), J Kpoku (Saracens), J Launchbury (Wasps), C Lawes (Northampton), J Marler (Harlequins), M Rhodes (Saracens), C Robshaw (Harlequins), S Simmonds (Exeter), K Sinckler (Harlequins), J Singleton (Worcester), W Spencer (Leicester), E Stooke (Bath), S Underhill (Bath), M Vunipola (Saracens), H Williams (Exeter), M Wilson (Newcastle).

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