Despite their best start to a Super Rugby season Melbourne Rebels coach Tony McGahan feels his team still has some work to do to the catch the Brumbies and Waratahs.
The Rebels’ 25-23 win over Queensland meant they actually leap-frogged the Waratahs into second on the Australian conference, with NSW having the bye.
They only trail the unbeaten Brumbies but McGahan wasn’t getting carried away after winning two from three to start the year.
“I think we’ve got a little way to go at this part of the season because the Brumbies have started exceptionally well,” McGahan said.
“They are three in a row and they go to South Africa with a lot of confidence.
“While the Waratahs got beaten by the Brumbies their squad is littered with international players while Sean’s (McMahon) our only player in the top 25 in the country.”
McGahan said it was a priority for the Rebels to develop some more Wallabies with injured halfback Nic Stirzaker and five-eighth Jack Debreczeni among those tipped for higher honours.
Melbourne’s development program is starting to reap some rewards with the first home-grown player in teenage centre Sione Tuipulotu making his Super debut.
Tuipulotu replaced Tamati Ellison in the line-up with the veteran battling the effects of concussion.
The 18-year-old grew up in Melbourne’s south and only took up rugby at 12 when his Tongan father convinced his Italian mother that rugby was his game rather than soccer.
A St Kevins graduate, Tuipulotu plays for Southern Districts and has represented in Australian schoolboys.
He was signed by the Rebels late last year but didn’t expect to be making his debut so soon, especially after suffering a knee injury in the pre-season.
Tuipulotu rated it as one of the best days of his life, especially with the Rebels scoring the win.
“I’m still pinching myself with the way it went down, it was amazing,” he said.
He said lining up against former Wallabies centre Anthony Fainga’a in the Reds, who was a player he had always looked up to, was “crazy”.
Ellison is expected to be fit for their next match, in Tokyo, against the Sunwolves but Tuipulotu was hopeful he would be in the squad.