It will be the first opportunity for Rebels fans to get to see halves duo Will Genia and Quade Cooper link up together for the first time in Melbourne colours, with both players named to start at nine and 10 respectively.
Cooper leads a list of five new faces for the Rebels, with former Brumbies players Isi Naisarani and Robbie Abel named to face their old side, with Naisarani to start at number eight, while Abel will begin on the bench as the reserve hooker.
Rounding out the list of potential debutants is Shute Shield player Matt Gibbon and former Reds and Waratahs player Brad Wilkin, with both forwards earning a spot in the reserves. After three years abroad at French Club Bordeaux, returning Foundation Rebel Luke Jones, who played 72 games for the Club between 2011-2016, will slot straight back into the starting 15, after being named at left lock.
Promising forward Richard Hardwick will have the tough task of going head to head with David Pocock, after the Wallabies flanker was named to start despite concerns a strained calf could keep the Brumbies vice-captain out of the season opener.
Lock Adam Coleman was unable to overcome an injury sustained from the recent 10-day Wallabies Camp, while Reece Hodge has been given further time to come back from his ankle injury.
Rebels Head Coach Dave Wessels says he is excited by the arrival of Round 1, with the squad raring to go after putting in the hard work required over the preseason.“It’s obviously exciting to get underway but going up to Canberra, it’s not an easy challenge,” Wessels said.
“We’ve got to turn up. We’ve done a great job of keeping everything simple and how we compete every day and get a little bit better, all of the players have really bought into that.”
While it may be the start of the new season, the Rebels and Brumbies have already acquainted themselves in 2019 when the two sides played a trial match in Canberra in January, with the ACT side coming out 52-38 winners.
However, Wessels has not read into the result too much for Friday’s game, saying the two sides will look vastly different when they face off at GIO Stadium.
“A couple of our players didn’t play in it and a couple of their players didn’t play in it too,” he said.
“Everyone holds everything back during the trials, so you don’t get much of a read, but we are ready for the challenge.”
Melbourne Rebels match day 23 v Brumbies, Friday February 15 at GIO Stadium
Dane Haylett-Petty ©