Matt Toomua has made himself eligible to play in the Rugby Championship for Australia later this month after signing a deal to join Melbourne Rebels at the end of the season.
The Wallabies international moved to Welford Road in the summer of 2016 and will fill Michael Cheika’s need for cover behind backline lynchpin Bernard Foley.
The two-and-a-half year deal signed by Toomua with the Rebels has pushed Leicester Tigers to agree terms with free agent Kyle Eastmond, having opened talks at the start of July.
Released by Wasps in May, centre Eastmond said of the move to his new club: “It’s great to join a massive club like Leicester with a strong tradition. I’m very happy to be a Tiger.”
Despite the loss of Toomua’s ability to play fly-half and centre, as well as his defensive prowess, Tigers head coach Matt O’Connor said the addition of Eastmond will add skill to a backline that will see him rekindle a partnership with his former Bath team-mate George Ford.
O’Connor said: “We have some very skilful and exciting players in our backline and Kyle will add to that quality.
“He has an impressive skillset and we’re delighted we’ve been able to bring him into the squad here ahead of the new season.”
Toomua’s future return to Australia means he can also begin to pursue a new objective of making Michael Cheika’s World Cup squad. Yet, the 28-year-old conceded he felt his Wallabies career was finished.
“It has been a tough couple of weeks and one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in my career,” Toomua said, who has made 23 appearances for the Midlands club.
“The option to return to Australia was something that did exist within my contract after the 2019 season. In all honesty I thought my time in Australian rugby was finished, and I was very happy in Leicester and contributing to the club here. However the opportunity to return home to my wife and family after almost three years apart, and potentially play in another World Cup was too hard to ignore.
“I am still very much a Tigers player and, if anything, being able to have this all sorted is more positive than to have a decision hanging over my head.
“I absolutely love the club, have become close friends with all of my team-mates and want to go out in a successful way.”
Capped 33 times by the Wallabies, Toomua will return to the Leicester squad during the Rugby Championship rest weeks, should he be selected by Cheika. This would see him available to play in the Tigers first match of the Premiership season away at Exeter Chiefs and for Round 4 at home to Worcester Warriors.
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