Wallabies five-eighth Matt Toomua was granted an early release by English rugby union giants Leicester following his request to join up immediately with Melbourne Rebels.
Toomua’s contract was due to end after the climax of Leicester’s domestic campaign and he was originally inked to play in the final Premiership game of the campaign against Bath on Saturday.
But he has already returned to Australia a week early to link up with the Rebels with the full permission of the Tigers.
And with regular playmaker Quade Cooper in doubt for the Rebels’ Super Rugby match against the Bulls on Friday night, fly-half Toomua could even find himself thrust into action earlier than expected by his new employers.
Cooper was momentarily knocked out after copping an accidental knee to the head when tackling Queensland skipper Samu Kerevi at AAMI Park on Friday during a 30-24 win.
The 31-year-old stylist will be given until Wednesday to prove his recovery after going through concussion protocols but even if he does get the green light, he may be sidelined to ensure he’s 100 per cent with the finals looming – opening the door for Toomua.
The Rebels had only been hopeful of having him on board in time for Friday’s showdown against the Bulls, with the round-15 clash against the Sunwolves in Tokyo on May 26 appearing to be more likely.
But the chances of an early introduction into the fray have been boosted after Toomua checked in for duty at his new club on Monday.
“Matt Toomua flew back to Australia on Sunday and has already trained with the Rebels as they continue their Super Rugby campaign,” a Leicester club statement released on Monday read.
His early return to the Rebels, with whom he has signed a two-and-a-half year deal, is good news for Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, who sees Toomua as a key member of his World Cup plans later this year.
The versatile 29-year-old was signed in 2016 but joined at a difficult time in Leicester’s history, culminating in this season’s struggle against relegation.
The 33-Test Wallabies star escaped a red card for making a tip tackle on his debut against Glasgow but he missed most of the campaign anyway because of a knee injury.
Leicester fans voted him player of the year for 2018-19 because of his vision and range of passing. He made a total for 41 appearances for the Tigers.