Wallabies and Melbourne Rebels backrower Lopeti Timani has signed a contract extension which will keep him playing in Australia until at least the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
The former Waratah has already pulled on a Wallabies jersey on six occasions having made his debut in September against Argentina in Perth.
26-year-old Timani had previously signed on until 2017, however, his latest extension ensures he’ll remain in the Australian fold until the next Rugby World Cup, which is to be hosted in Japan in 2019.
It is thought the 193cm forward was courted by a number of overseas sides, and his re-signing represents a serious coup for the Wallabies as well as Super Rugby side the Melbourne Rebels.
Timani joined the Rebels in 2014 from the Waratahs and has since featured 29 times in the Super Rugby competition, crossing for six tries in the process.
“I’m thankful for the opportunities in the last 12 months, it was a goal to play for the Wallabies and the result of lots of hard work, but I feel like there are lots of improvements that I can still make in my game,” Timani said.
“I’ve enjoyed my time in Melbourne over the last couple of years so I’m looking forward to working with Rebels head coach Tony McGahan and forwards coach Zane Hilton to give myself the best chance at fulfilling my dream of playing at the Rugby World Cup.”
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was pleased with the signing, stating he was excited to see Timani continue his development in Australia.
“The challenge is just starting for him now and you can see he wants it after knocking back some lucrative European offers to stay and play in Melbourne and putting his hand up to represent the Wallabies again in 2017.”
Timani’s coach at the Rebels, Tony McGahan, also lauded the powerful backrower’s decision.
“Lopeti has worked hard for his opportunities this year with the Wallabies which is great recognition of his hard work and consistency over the last three years,” McGahan said.
“He’s shown great commitment and focus to develop his core skills and fitness since his arrival at the club so we look forward to Lopeti playing a key role for the Rebels and Wallabies in the years to come.”
The Rebels will begin their 2017 Super Rugby campaign with the first game of the season at home against the Blues on Thursday, February 23.