Rob Leota is eyeing a May return from a ruptured achilles, with the Melbourne Rebels backrower using fellow Wallabies player Quade Cooper as a marker.
Five-eighth Cooper suffered the same injury during a Test match in August, just a few weeks before Leota, so is on a similar timeline to be back playing.
Super Rugby Pacific kicks off with round one starting on Friday February 24, with 25-year-old Leota hoping to be back running in around five weeks.
With almost a decade difference in age, the zen Cooper offers Leota spiritual and physical guidance, with social media mantras such as “Challenges make things interesting … overcoming them makes it meaningful”.
“I regularly chatted with Quade from early on and we message a fair bit or he calls to check up on me and how my rehab in going,” Leota told AAP.
“It’s not good he’s also injured but it’s good to have someone with the same injury.
“Quade’s mindset is so helpful … I’ve just been trying to learn as much as I can from what he’s going through as he keeps my mind open to new things.”
Leota, who has played 13 Tests, said he wasn’t thinking about being a part of this year’s Rugby World Cup under new Wallabies coach Edddie Jones at this stage, with his focus solely on returning to the field.
His 2022 Super Rugby season was also hampered by a troublesome hamstring, but the Melbourne-born backrower has still become the newest Rebels captain, replacing Michael Wells after his departure to the Western Force.
Leota said he initially had to be convinced of what value he could bring to the role, given he would be sidelined for much of the season, with flanker Brad Wilkin stepping in to lead the team.
“It was a bit surprising but once the plan was presented to me, and how much the club wanted to see me in that role, I think it was easier to accept,” Leota said.
“I was a little bit reluctant and it caught me off guard but I thought about what it would mean to a lot of Melbourne kids and that it would send a pretty big message, so it excited me when I looked at it in that sense.”
Melbourne finished 10th last year, with a slow start to the season costly.
Leota said they were determined 2023 would be different, starting from their season opener against the Western Force.
“We want to start really fast as we were slow to find our groove last year,” he said.
“Our trial match against the Brumbies was positive and we’ve got a lot of boys back from injury and a few new boys so we want to come out firing and play a good brand of footy.”
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