Tupou to Tahs, LSL to Reds, Gordon eyes NRL switch: Where Rebels stars will find new homes in Super Rugby


Darren Coleman’s successor at the Waratahs stands to benefit from the Melbourne Rebels’ shattering culling, with Taniela Tupou likely to join NSW and form an all-Wallabies front-row in 2025.

But unless the Waratahs can snag Michael Cheika in the coming weeks, it’s unlikely Carter Gordon will join his Rebels teammate at the Waratahs.

The Roar understands the young Wallabies fly-half is still strongly considering a move to the NRL, with the World Cup member increasingly disenchanted by the state of the game.

Not even the promise of a “golden decade” can sway every young player’s mind in Australia, with the lure of the Lions and a home World Cup over the next four years not as strong as it once was after a dire eight years.

Carter Gordon’s future in Australian rugby is far from certain. Photo: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

While several players, especially emerging talent fresh out of the under-20s system in recent years will likely head overseas, at least half of the Rebels 2024 cohort will find new homes in Australia despite Rugby Australia opting to shut the doors on the men’s program in Melbourne on Thursday.

Despite Super Rugby Pacific reaching the final round of the regular season, RA decided that not another second needed to be wasted in keeping the Rebels in limbo with their futures after the franchise fell into voluntary administration in late January.

“I think that I was very clear when the Rebels went into voluntary administration that we would make a decision as quickly as we possibly could with all the appropriate information that we required,” RA chief executive Phil Waugh said.

“We received that information last week. We had a presentation this week.

“We then analysed all the information and we made the decision as quickly as we could to give certainty to players and staff. And I think that’s a fair and reasonable thing to do.

“One element that I think under new leadership is that we do what we say we’re going to do and we act with integrity.

“We always said that once we have the information on hand, we will make a decision and an educated decision as quickly as we possibly could. We’ve done that.

“It’s a good time in terms of the performance of the Rebels going into a tough game in Fiji. And then their first finals ever. So, I think that we’ve given certainty. Players have certainty. Staff have certainty.

“Now, we hope they go forward and succeed.

“I think the key thing was there is no good time.

“Once these decisions are made, generally it’s hard to keep it under wraps. And we had committed to the players and the staff that we would share that information with them as soon as we arrived at that decision. If we were to do it next week leading into a final their first final, I think that would have been worse.

“And then to hold off another week after that after Super Rugby potentially was over or whether they were through to another final then you’re just kicking the can down the road and you just run out of runway.”

Rugby Australia CEO Phil Waugh and Rugby Australia Chair Daniel Herbert announce that the Rebels will no longer play in Super Rugby Pacific following the 2024 season. (Photo by Morgan Hancock/Getty Images)

Around half of the Super Rugby franchise was contracted to the Rebels for the 2025 season.

As such, RA will honour those contracts and play a role in finding their new home.

The Roar last week revealed that RA officials, including new director of high performance Peter Horne, had visited the Rebels to speak with players about preferred destinations. Not every player chose to speak with the governing body.

“There’s players that have contracts through to 2025, which we’ve worked through depth charts and looking at cohesion across other Super Rugby clubs and salary cap with the other Super Rugby clubs to work out where the best landing club could be,” Waugh said.

So where are the players likely heading?

Despite Tupou fielding inquiries from Leinster and Montpellier, it’s believed the giant Wallabies tight-head prop will head to the Waratahs for the 2025 season.

There he will pack down alongside Wallabies teammates Angus Bell and hooker Dave Porecki.

Taniela Tupou is set to join the Waratahs but whether Sam Talakai joins him remains to be seen. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Fellow front-rowers Isaac Kailea and Sam Talakai are believed to be considering their options, with the latter exploring options to head overseas despite interest from the Waratahs. Kailea, one of the big movers in 2024, is likely to stay in Australia but it’s far from clear where.

Matt Gibbon, who pulled on the Wallabies jersey in 2022, will likely garner some interest from the Waratahs, Brumbies and Force.

Test hooker Jordan Uelese, who last year went to his second World Cup campaign, could garner some interest from the Waratahs with the Force now stacked in the position after signing Brandon Paenga-Amosa and Nic Dolly from overseas.

While the Waratahs have been playing blindside flankers in the second-row for years, it’s believed Lukhan Salakaia-Loto will return to the Reds.

It’s understood his second-row partner Josh Canham wants to join Salakaia-Loto in Queensland, but the Waratahs could end up getting the exciting lock.

Versatile forward Tuaina Taii Tualima will join the Brumbies.

Tuaina Tualima (L) will join the Brumbies while Lukhan Salakaia-Loto (2nd left) is expected to return to the Reds. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

Rebels captain Rob Leota is believed to have been left shattered by the recent announcement. With Reed Prinsep to leave the Force at season’s end, the versatile forward could end up in Perth but the Waratahs are another option, especially after a positive experience playing in the Shute Shield with Easts.

Josh Kemeny, as first reported by The Roar, is heading to Northampton.

The future of the halves remains to be seen, with Australian not exactly short of halfback options.

At fly-half, the Waratahs, as well as the Reds, are thought to be interested in Gordon.

But the 23-year-old is believed to be leaning on a code switch to the NRL rather than joining the Waratahs.

With Reds playmaker Lawson Creighton expected to head to Japan and James O’Connor nearing the end of his playing days in Super Rugby, the Reds could potentially go after him and his brother Mason.

Winger Darby Lancaster is attracting plenty of interest, including at the Reds.

Another returning to the Reds is in-form versatile back Filipo Daugunu, The Roar understands.

Wallabies outside back Andrew Kellaway, as The Roar reported in January, will return to the Waratahs.

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