MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The Melbourne Rebels have recruited a trio of fringe Wallabies players from the defunct Western Force team as they build an impressive roster ahead of next year’s Super Rugby campaign.
Lock Matt Philip reunites with former Force coach Dave Wessels at the Rebels after making his test debut in Michael Cheika’s team against Japan earlier this month.
Loose forward Richard Hardwick, who made his international debut in June against Fiji and Scotland, also crosses the Nullarbor Plain.
Uncapped centre Billy Meakes, who was named in Cheika’s squad for the northern hemisphere tour, is the third to link up with the Rebels.
“We’re delighted to have Matt, Dickie (Richard) and Billy join us,” Wessels said in a team release on Thursday.
“All three of them work incredibly hard and want to be part of the Wallabies team at the next World Cup. They’ll be a great addition to our squad both on and off-field.”
The Force were cut from the Australian conference as the Super Rugby competition contracts from 18 to 15 teams next year.
The Perth team’s demise has been the Rebels’ gain, with a number of top-class players following their former coach Wessels to Melbourne.
The Rebels announced earlier this month they had signed established Wallabies winger Dane Haylett-Petty and his lock brother Ross from the Force.
The Rebels have never made the playoffs and have suffered multi-million dollar losses in maintaining a foothold for rugby union in the Australian Rules football-dominated city since joining Super Rugby in 2011.
They will look to rebound quickly after finishing bottom of the Australian conference this year at the end of an injury-plagued season.
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Frank Pingue