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Rebels extend Vuna's contract

Still a Rebel: Cooper Vuna.

Still a Rebel: Cooper Vuna. Photo: Getty Images

COOPER Vuna, the Melbourne Rebels' leading try scorer last season, will remain at the fledgling club for at least another two seasons.

Vuna, 25, enjoyed a stellar 2012 campaign, playing in 14 of a possible 16 matches and, for the second straight season, leading his team in tries, with seven.

Vuna's manager Peter Jess said the New Zealand-born winger was delighted to have his contract extended and remain with Melbourne.

''He is pleased. It is a platform for him to get back into the Wallabies squad,'' Jess said.

''It is an exciting time for him. It is the fittest he has been. He has performed very well on the track and the club is very pleased with him.''

Vuna's strong form last season helped him claim a berth midyear in the Wallabies squad, making his debut against Wales in Brisbane. He played in the Melbourne Test a week later but was unable to be considered for Australia's European spring tour because of shoulder surgery.

The NRL convert will be fit for the start of the Super Rugby season, having also improved his diet and banned alcohol in a bid to be in slick condition.

The Rebels will also work next year to extend Kurtley Beale's contract. His two-year deal expires after the 2013 campaign and the blue-chip full-back admitted in April while he was ''100 per cent'' committed to the Rebels he was homesick for Sydney.

He also said there could be opportunities in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and Europe ''later on''. The Rebels fended off the Waratahs for his signature last year.

The Rebels are hoping for a strong season from Wallabies star James O'Connor, who played just eight matches last season because of a lacerated liver and later a hamstring strain. An issue with his right leg also prevented O'Connor from joining the European tour. Rebels coach Damien Hill must decide whether to play him at full-back, inside centre or five-eighth next season.

The Rebels will start their campaign with two trials, against the Waratahs in Hobart on February 2 and against the Hurricanes in Geelong on February 9.

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