Star lock Lukhan Salakaia-Loto unveiled as Rebels latest signing

Wed, Jun 7, 2023, 11:55 PM
Rebels Media
by Rebels Media

The Melbourne Rebels are thrilled to confirm the blockbuster signing of Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, who has committed to the Rebels until at least the end of 2025.  

Salakaia-Loto is the Club’s third major addition for next year’s Harvey Norman Super Rugby Pacific campaign, following in the footsteps of Wallabies’ teammate, Taniela Tupou, who signed with the Rebels in February and in-demand Australian Sevens star, Darby Lancaster, who committed to the Rebels last month

The acquisition of the capped international who has made 30 appearances for the Wallabies, will bolster an already impressive Rebels’ second row led by Victorian giant Josh Canham, while also providing crucial top level experience to a young and exciting Rebels squad hungry to continue building on this year’s growth. 

The versatile forward’s addition further supports the Club’s TWI alignment strategy, with Salakaia-Loto having spent several years playing with current Rebels hooker, Alex Mafi, and recent signing, Taniela Tupou. 

After beginning his senior rugby journey plying his trade for Randwick in the Shute Shield, Salakaia-Loto was selected for Australia in the 2015 and 2016 U20 World Cups, playing alongside current Melbourne Rebels, Rob Leota, Jordan Uelese, James Tuttle and Nick Jooste. 

Following an eye-catching championship campaign, Salakaia-Loto signed his first professional contract with the Queensland Reds in 2015, working closely with Rebels GM of Rugby, Nick Stiles. 

Just one year later, the athletic lock won selection for Australia, making his Test debut against South Africa in 2017, before becoming a key contributor during the Wallabies’ 2019 World Cup campaign, playing all five matches, including the quarter-final.

After enjoying a stellar Super Rugby career spanning seven years and 69 matches, Salakaia-Loto headed overseas in 2022, signing with Northampton in the English Premiership, where he made 24 appearances. 

At just twenty-six-years-old, Salakaia-Loto is only now entering the prime of his career. 

Salakaia-Loto said he’s excited to return to Australian shores and bolster an already impressive Rebels’ pack. 

“Having the opportunity to add what’s been brewing down in Melbourne was really exciting,” said Salakaia-Loto.

“I’m looking forward to reuniting with Maf and Nela, who are basically my brothers. The opportunity to reconnect and play together for the same team once again is something I’m really excited for.

“It’s going to be awesome joining forces with Nick Stiles again as well. He’s someone who’s had a lot of influence early on in my career, so I’m looking forward to getting back to work with him.”

Melbourne Rebels GM of Rugby, Nick Stiles, said the Club was excited to bring in some of Lukhan Salakaia-Loto’s calibre. 

“To have such a quality player and person like Lukhan join the Melbourne Rebels is really exciting news for our members and fans,” said Stiles. 

“Lukhan will be a great addition on the field, bringing invaluable experience at the Super Rugby, English Championship and International Test level. 

“He’s a versatile forward who can shift between the second and back row, and is only now entering his prime years, so we’re excited Lukhan’s best playing days will be wearing a Melbourne Rebels jersey. 

“Off the field, Lukhan will bring great value mentoring the next generation coming through at the Rebels, teaching them what it takes to develop into a successful Super Rugby and Test player. 

“As we’ve previously mentioned, our recruitment strategy is bringing in characters who will help strengthen our growing culture. Lukhan will only complement what we’re trying to build, so we’re excited to welcome him to our Melbourne family and can’t wait to see him run out as a Melbourne Rebel in 2024.”