Former Western Force coach Dave Wessels. Photo: File

SYDNEY - Former Western Force coach Dave Wessels has knocked back overtures from Ireland to remain in Australia and head up the Melbourne Rebels, he announced on Friday.

After Perth-based Force were controversially axed from Super Rugby last month, and the 34-year-old South African was reportedly being courted by Irish powerhouse Munster. But he has now joined the Rebels on a two-year deal.

"For me, the decision was driven by a strong feeling of 'unfinished business' in Super Rugby," Wessels said. 

"I'm very passionate about rugby, and the game in this country has provided me with the opportunity to fulfil my dream to coach professionally."

The highly rated Wessels, who has been tipped as a potential future Australia coach, said the Rebels shared an "outsiders" label with his former club, having also been threatened with elimination from Super Rugby.

"These are very powerful galvanising forces for a club, and we're very motivated by the fact that it's 'us versus the rest'," he said.

Wessels joined the Force as an assistant coach in 2013 and took over as head coach last year. There is speculation that he could lure some of the Force's star players to Melbourne.

"We're delighted that Dave will be joining us. He's one of the brightest and most sought-after coaches in world rugby," Rebels CEO Baden Stephenson said.

"He showed real leadership through an incredibly difficult period at the Western Force and has demonstrated his ability to build a world-class rugby program."

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