The Melbourne Rebels have put out the welcome mat for Wallaby forward Sitaleki Timani but he’s yet to commit to the Super Rugby side.
The Rebels were already in the market for a lock and may land a bigger fish than expected after Timani’s big money deal with French club Montpellier reportedly fell through.
With his former Super Rugby outfit NSW Waratahs already replacing him with South African Jacques Potgieter, Timani may join his younger brother Lopeti in Melbourne.
He would be a huge get, literally, standing 203cm and weighing 120kg.
Timani’s relationship with Rebels coach Tony McGahan, who was previously Wallabies coaching co-ordinator, adds further weight to Melbourne’s case.
“Very early discussion have been had but it’s very much in Sitaleki’s hands to where he stands with his opportunity in France,” said Rebels chief executive Rob Clarke.
“We wanted to at least let him and the Australian Rugby Union know that we have an opportunity for a lock and he would be a perfect fit for us at the Rebels.”
Backrower Lopeti Timani, 19, joined Melbourne on a two-year deal starting in 2014 after limited game time at NSW.
He won’t start training with the Rebels until October, playing Sydney club rugby with Southern Districts alongside his 26-year-old brother beforehand.
If Sitaleki decides to remains in Australia he will become available for Wallaby selection, after initially being overlooked by new coach Ewen McKenzie because of his expected departure for France.
After 10 Test caps, he missed the British and Irish Lions series due to thumb surgery.
The Rebels are also on the look-out for a couple of backs.
Melbourne have some money to spare after releasing Test stars James O’Connor and Kurtley Beale, who last week re-signed with NSW.
O’Connor initially pin-pointed this break in the Wallabies’ Rugby Championship schedule to make a decision on his playing future.
However his manager David Shand said he didn’t expect any news this week.
O’Connor is believed to be headed back to the Western Force however their chief executive Mark Sinderberry is overseas until the end of the week.
Shand said there was interest from parties including other Australian provinces, overseas rugby clubs and rugby league but O’Connor’s preference was to play rugby union in Australia.
“All I can say is that negotiations are ongoing and are very positive with the ARU at this stage,” he said.
“His focus at the moment is playing for the Wallabies.”