Rugby-Louwrens out as injuries ravage Melbourne wanderers


By Nick Mulvenney

SYDNEY, Aug 6 (Reuters) - Melbourne Rebels coach Dave Wessels has had to contend with more than his fair share of setbacks this year but if he ever starts feeling sorry for himself he just has to get on the phone to family and friends back in his adopted home city.

The Rebels departed Melbourne in late June to ensure they would be able to play Super Rugby AU and a subsequent spike in COVID-19 cases has resulted in an increasingly severe state of lockdown in the city they left behind.

"I was just talking to my wife and she talked about how eerie the city is and I think everyone's doing it pretty tough over there," Wessels said on Thursday. "We definitely feel a responsibility to put out a good performance and make those people proud of us ..."

The Rebels have also been struggling with a lengthy injury list, which scrumhalf Ryan Louwrens has joined after suffering a bicep injury that looks likely to sideline him for the rest of the competition.

Bringing Fiji international Frank Lomani in at halfback for Friday's match against the ACT Brumbies was one enforced change but Wessels has also made other personnel and tactical switches, including moving Matt Toomua from flyhalf to the centres.

"We are trying to get the balance right between keeping everyone on tour engaged and making sure our performances improve each week," the South African added.

"But we're not running a nightclub, it's not take a ticket get a turn. Guys have got to make sure their performances in training warrant selection."

Despite the injuries, the Rebels have been going well and head into the clash with the competition leaders at Sydney Leichhardt Oval unbeaten in three games.

"We've been on tour for a long time now, and every game in this competition is away," said Wessels.

"So we're in very different circumstances to the Brumbies, who get to sleep every night in their own bed. Life's pretty cruisy if you're in Brumbie-land now."

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Richard Pullin)

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