Melbourne Rebels poised to swoop for coach Dave Wessels if Super Rugby’s Western Force fold
Perth-based franchise lodge appeal with the Supreme Court of New South Wales to fight for their survival, with the appeal hearing set to be held in Sydney next week
The Melbourne Rebels have targeted Western Force coach Dave Wessels as a potential replacement for the departed Tony McGahan if the Perth team lose their battle to stay in Super Rugby.
The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) said on Friday it would axe the Force from the competition, but the Western Australian franchise have lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court of New South Wales to fight for their survival, with the appeal hearing set to be held in Sydney next week.
Along with dozens of players and staff, the highly regarded Wessels could find himself unemployed if Force lose their appeal, but Rebels chief executive officer Baden Stephenson said there would be a job interview waiting for him at the Melbourne club.
“If Dave became available, we would certainly be keen to have a conversation with him,” Stephenson said in comments published by The Australian newspaper on Wednesday.
“Dave has done a great job in [Western Australia] and he is highly respected in Australian rugby.”
Absolutely gutted by the ARU decision to cut the @westernforce license. The State Government is right behind our team. We haven't given up.
— Mark McGowan (@MarkMcGowanMP) August 11, 2017
The Rebels’ future in Super Rugby was also uncertain until the ARU’s announcement.
The ARU said in April it would cull either the Force or the Rebels as the competition contracts to 15 teams next season due to widespread dissatisfaction with the 18-team format.
In Wessels’ first full season in charge, the Force posted a losing 6-9 record this year, but still finished second in the conference behind the ACT Brumbies.
The Rebels crashed to the bottom of the conference, managing only a single win in a dismal, injury-blighted season which ended with former Munster boss McGahan resigning after four years in charge.
However, things are looking up for the Melbourne side, who have never made the play-offs since becoming Australia’s fifth Super Rugby team in 2011.
On Tuesday, they announced they had secured Wallabies scrum half Will Genia on a two-year deal in a major coup, and have made a number of other key signings.
— Melbourne Rebels (@MelbourneRebels) August 15, 2017
The Rebels have lured two-test tighthead prop Tetera Faulkner away from the Force and stand poised to pick the eyes out of a playing list that has contributed six players to Michael Cheika’s squad for the Rugby Championship.
Force players, including capped Wallabies duo Dane Haylett-Petty and Adam Coleman, have pledged to stick by the provincial team until their fate is decided.
Force and Wallabies hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau is another holding fire as he bids for a starting spot in the Rugby Championship opener against the All Blacks in Sydney on Saturday.
“Once I do have time to stop and think, yeah I will have to reassess then,” he said.
“But at this point in time I am trying to get the job done against New Zealand.”