The Melbourne Rebels will extend their Canberra residency for another week as part of a Super Rugby AU fixture switch that allows them to travel to Perth to play the Western Force next month.
The Rebels haven’t played at home for more than a year after they were forced out of Victoria because of the coronavirus last season.
They were made to flee Melbourne for the nation’s capital again earlier this month to avoid being locked out of Queensland for their season-opener against the Reds on Friday.
Originally due to return to Melbourne after this weekend’s second-round clash, the Rebels will instead go back to Canberra and play the Brumbies there in a fixture swap that will allow them to also travel to play the Force on March 14.
If they had returned to Melbourne and played the Brumbies at AAMI Park as originally scheduled they would not have been allowed into Perth the following week.
As part of the switch, the Rebels will now host the Brumbies on Sunday, April 18 instead, while their AAMI Park return will now come against the NSW Waratahs on March 19.
Rebels boss Baden Stephenson thanked the Brumbies, Rugby Australia and the broadcast partners for allowing the switch while coach Dave Wessels said they were already eying off their home-ground return.
“It’s funny how all roads seem to lead to Canberra for us at the moment,” Wessels said.
“But it’s not our home and we’re keen to get back as soon as we can, like the other teams, to train at our home base and be with our families.
“They (our families) sacrificed so much last year and we’re very grateful for their love and support.
“It’s been more than a year since we’ve played in front of our home crowd and as much as anyone, Melbourne need some good news and it’ll be great to play in front of them hopefully not too far away.”
The fixture switch now sees the Brumbies, last year’s domestic champions, with three-straight home games.
The Rebels will head to Brisbane on Friday wary of a team in good form and without captain Dane Haylett-Petty, who is battling concussion symptoms.
“He’s feeling good in himself and we’re just taking our time and exactly when that (return) happens I’m not too sure, but hopefully not too far away,” Wessels said.
Wallabies veteran Matt Toomua is set to take the reins in the fullback’s absence.
“He’s a very, very experienced Super Rugby player so we’re lucky to have someone like that but it’s not only his responsibility,” Wessels said.
“There’s a whole group that have to take responsibilities for their areas.
“The Reds played well (in a 41-7 defeat of the Waratahs) and we’ll have to play well to beat them, but that’s always the case at Suncorp Stadium.”