Nic Stirzaker Injury Blow for Rebels

The Melbourne Rebels will be without newly announced club captain Nic Stirzaker for the opening round of the 2016 Super Rugby competition, after he was not named in the side to face the Western Force. Saturday night’s match (9.50pm AEDT) came too soon for scrum half Stirzaker to recover from a shoulder injury. Open side flanker Sean Mcmahon resumes the mantle of captaincy after solid showings in the role throughout the pre-season.

The Rebels will miss the level of high quality service from Nic Stirzaker, however, his replacement Ben Meehan has shown in the NRC that he is a more than capable stand in. With 35 points from 13 appearances for the Melbourne Rising, he will provide a huge threat around the breakdown for the Force to contend with. Despite only eight Super Rugby caps to his name, Meehan will be hoping to up the stakes in his battle for the number nine jersey by capitalising upon the untimely injury of Stirzaker. The contest for scrum half at the Rebels this season may well be a tough position for either player to firmly nail down.

Elsewhere in the side named by Head Coach Tony McGahan, new recruit James Hanson starts his first match for the Rebels after a move from the Queensland Reds. He forms a formidable looking front row alongside Toby Smith and Laurie Weeks, and will look to set a platform for Meehan and his backs cohort to work from. Practically a Super Rugby veteran with 78 caps to his name as well as a Wallaby, Hanson will be looking to start this career challenge on a high for his new club. Another man making his first start for the Rebels is kiwi journeyman Adam Thompson. After stints with the Highlanders and Reds, as well as time in Japan, he will bring a huge amount of physicality and experience to the Melbourne pack. The World Cup winner is certainly shaping up to be a valuable asset for the Rebels.

After a narrow last round victory for the Force during the 2015 season, the Rebels will be looking to turn the scoreboard in their favour. The Force have narrowed their large contingent of fly halves down from five to two, with Jono Lance pipping Peter Grant to the number ten shirt with the latter on the bench. Alby Mathewson will look to put a dampener on Meehan’s performance, whilst the Force must contend without Ben McCalman as he makes his return from a stint in Japan.

Both of these sides will have more than likely marked this match up as a must win game, the new conference system means more Aussie derbies than ever before, and this contest in Perth is unlikely to be a dull match. The Rebels and the Force need a positive start to their season upon which to build and the two named line ups hold much promise.

Round One Teams

Melbourne Rebels team for Round 1 against Western Force

1.Toby Smith
2.James Hanson
3.Laurie Weeks
4.Luke Jones
5.Lopeti Timani
6.Jordy Reid
7.Sean McMahon (captain)
8.Adam Thomson
9.Ben Meehan
10.Jack Debreczeni
11.Reece Hodge
12.Mitch Inman
13.Tamati Ellison
14.Dom Shipperley
15.Mike Harris

Reserves
16.Pat Leafa
17.Cruze Ah Nau
18.Jamie Hagan
19.Steve Cummins
20.Colby Fainga’a
21.Mick Snowden
22.Jonah Placid
23.Tom English

WESTERN FORCE

1. Pekahou Cowan
2. Nathan Charles
3. Guy Millar
4. Steve Mafi
5. Adam Coleman
6. Brynard Stander
7. Matt Hodgson
8. Angus Cottrell
9. Alby Mathewson
10. Jono Lance
11. Marcel Brache
12. Kyle Godwin
13. Ben Tapuai
14. Luke Morahan
15. Dane Haylett-Petty

Reserves
16. Heath Tessmann
17. Chris Heiberg
18. Jermaine Ainsley
19. Ross Haylett-Petty
20. Chris Alcock
21. Ian Prior
22. Peter Grant
23. Semisi Masirewa

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