Rebels opt for experience in Brisbane
SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT: The Melbourne Rebels have named seven internationals and a former Australian vice-captain in their squad for the inaugural Brisbane 10s on February 11 and 12.
Rebels coach Tony McGahan has included five Wallabies - Reece Hodge, James Hanson, Sefa Naivalu, Toby Smith and Lopeti Timani - Japanese international Amanaki Mafi, Fijian international Ben Volavola and former Australian vice-captain Morgan Turinui.
With 87 Tests of experience in the 26-player squad, the Rebels have named a balanced squad of international experience and exciting young talent for the two-day tournament, which features modified rules.
"We feel there's a good mix of experience and youth in the squad so it's a good opportunity for the senior players to continue their work with integrating the new recruits in a competitive environment," McGahan said.
"The Brisbane 10s will give us a quality hit out ahead of the 2017 Super Rugby season and an opportunity for the players to put their hands up ahead of the opening round against the Blues."
The Rebels have named five uncapped players with new recruits Jackson Garden-Bachop, Tyrel Lomax, Jack Maddocks, Murray Douglas and Mafi expected to get their first taste of Super Rugby opposition in Brisbane.
Turinui will lace up the boots for the Rebels after the 20-Test centre agreed to put his six-year retirement on hold with a wildcard selection.
The Rebels assistant coach enjoyed an eight-year Super Rugby career with the NSW Waratahs and Queensland Reds, which included 130 points from 83 appearances, followed by a swansong in Europe, before he retired in 2011.
"Morgan has been training alongside our backs during the pre-season to help introduce our new recruits to the franchise's structures but the Brisbane 10s will provide a the unique opportunity to support the ongoing development in a game situation," McGahan said.
The Rebels will be without the injured Sean McMahon (ankle), Alex Toolis (neck), Pama Fou (knee) and Sam Jeffries (foot) for the tournament.
The Rebels will kick off the Brisbane 10s in the opening game of the tournament against the Chiefs before taking on Top League's Panasonic Wild Knights and an Australian Derby against the Waratahs.
The inaugural competition will feature the ten Super Rugby franchises from Australia and New Zealand Super Rugby, along with the Wild Knights, French powerhouse franchise Toulon, South Africa's Bulls and the Samoan international team.
The Melbourne Rebels return to action in February with two trial matches against the Force (February 6) and Reds (February 14), along with the much-anticipated Brisbane 10s (February 11 and 12).
The Rebels squad will remain in Brisbane following the tournament for the trial match against the Reds.
The Rebels will kick off the 2017 Super Rugby season against the Blues In Melbourne on Thursday, February 23.
Melbourne Rebels squad: Cruze Ah-Nau, Steve Cummins, Jack Debreczeni, Murray Douglas, Tom English, Colby Fainga'a, Jackson Garden-Bachop, James Hanson, Reece Hodge, Mitch Inman, Marika Koroibete*, Pat Leafa, Tyrel Lomax, Jack Maddocks, Amanaki Mafi, Ben Meehan, Sefa Naivalu, Jordy Reid, Culum Retallick, Toby Smith, Nic Stirzaker (captain), Lopeti Timani, Sione Tuipulotu, Morgan Turinui (wildcard), Ben Volavola, Laurie Weeks.
* Subject to fitness