Rebels, Force do battle in Queensland
PRE-SEASON BUILD-UP: The Melbourne Rebels have named 13 uncapped players in an extended 31-player squad for the team's first trial match of the year against the Western Force at Bond University.
Rebels head coach Tony McGahan has included three uncapped players in the starting line-up with Harley Fox, Jackson Garden-Bachop and Jack Maddocks, while 10 have been named on an extended bench for the trial match.
"The first trial is an exciting time of the year because it's the first opportunity to put 10 weeks of pre-season into practice," McGahan said.
"We've got a heavy schedule over the next ten days with two trial matches against the Force and Reds, along with the Brisbane Tens next weekend, so we will give everyone some game time during this block."
The starting line-up features a qualified forward pack which includes internationals Lopeti Timani and Laurie Weeks, and Super Rugby experienced Jordy Reid, Cruze Ah-Nau, Pat Leafa, Steve Cummins, Culum Retallick and Australian Under-20s loose forward Fox.
Super Rugby experience in the backs will support new recruits flyhalf Garden-Bachop and fullback Jack Maddocks in their first outing in Rebels colours, including captain Nic Stirzaker, Wallaby Sefa Naivalu, Tom English, Mitch Inman and Sione Tuipulotu.
Along with Tuipulotu, the squad features five home-grown players with Siliva Siliva, Jordan Uelese, Fereti Sa'aga and Ikapote Tupai named on the extended reserves bench.
The Rebels will turn to an experienced bench with Jack Debrecezeni, Ben Meehan, Jonah Placid, Mick Snowden, Fijian international Ben Volavola, along with new recruits Jake Schatz, Dennis Pili-Gaitau, McGregor and Semisi Tupou.
The Rebels preparations for the opening round of the 2017 season, against the Blues, will step up with the trial against the Force before contesting the inaugural Brisbane Global Rugby Tens next weekend. A final trial against the Reds is on February 14.
"This block of pre-season is important to our preparations for Round One against the Blues as it tests the skills and decision making of our extended squad members under pressure in a competitive game environment," McGahan said.
The Rebels will kick off the 2017 Super Rugby season against the Blues at AAMI Park on February 23.
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Jack Maddocks, 14 Sefa Naivalu, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Sione Tuipulotu, 11 Tom English, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 Nic Stirzaker (captain), 8 Harley Fox, 7 Jordy Reid, 6 Lopeti Timani, 5 Steve Cummins, 4 Culum Retallick, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Cruze Ah-Nau.
Replacements - from: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Tom Moloney, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Jordan Uelese. 20 Jake Schatz, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Jack Debreczeni, 23 Ben Volavola, 24 Mick Snowden, 25 Jonah Placid, 26 Nick Kellaway, 27 Jack McGregor, 28 Fereti Sa'aga, 29 Ikapote Tupai, 30 Dennis Pili-Gaitau, 31 Semisi Tupou.
Western Force: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Bill Meakes, 11 Chance Peni, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Ryan Louwrens, 8 Brynard Stander, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Kane Koteka, 5 Ross Haylett-Petty, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Shambeckler Vui, 2 Heath Tessmann, 1 Pek Cowan.
Date: Monday February 6
Venue: Bond University, Gold Coast
Kick-off: 18.30 (15:30pm AWST; 08.30 GMT)
Referee: Brendon Pickerill (Australia)
Assistant referees: Nic Berry (Australia), Rohan Hoffman (Australia)