Rebels captain Nick Stirzaker will run out for Melbourne Rising in round one of the Buildcorp NRC this weekend.
He’ll be joined in the halves by regular Super Rugby partner Jack Debreczeni in a side that features 14 players with top-flight experience.
The two are part of a star-studded backline that includes the returning Sefa Naivalu who set the NRC alight in 2014 before missing last year with a leg injury.
The side has made the semi-finals of the first two seasons of the competition and will again be coached by Rebels assistant Zane Hilton.
“The exciting nature of the competition doesn’t allow for teams to ease into the season so we’ve named a strong team to give us the best chance against a quality opposition,” Hilton said.
“The side is full of domestic and international experience with plenty of familiar Rebels faces, supported by quality young Australian U20’s talent, who are making their NRC debuts, and strong Dewar Shield club players.”
Their first match is against Perth Spirit at UWA Sports Park on Saturday at 1:00pm, a fixture the side has struggled to win in the past.
“It’s always a great battle with the Spirit, they’ve got the wood over us in the last couple of meetings, so an away trip to Perth to start the season will be a great opportunity for us so early in the competition,” Hilton said.
The clash will be streamed live on www.foxsports.com.au.
Melbourne Rising side
1. Cruze Ah Nau (Footscray/Melbourne Rebels)
2. Pat Leafa (Box Hill/Melbourne Rebels)
3. Tim Metcher (Moorabbin/Melbourne Rebels)
4. Sam Jeffries (Melbourne University/Melbourne Rebels)
5. Steve Cummins (Harlequin/Melbourne Rebels)
6. Rob Leota (Melbourne University/Melbourne Rebels)*
7. Jordy Reid (Melbourne Unicorns/Melbourne Rebels)
8. Harley Fox (Power House/Melbourne Rebels)*
9. Nic Stirzaker (Endeavour Hills/Melbourne Rebels)
10. Jack Debreczeni (Endeavour Hills/Melbourne Rebels)
11. Tom English (Melbourne University/Melbourne Rebels)
12. Sione Tuipulotu (Southern Districts/Melbourne Rebels)
13. Sefa Naivalu (Box Hill/Melbourne Rebels)
14. Ah-Mu Tuimalealiifano (Harlequin)*
15. Jonah Placid (Melbourne University/Melbourne Rebels)
16. Jordan Uelese (Melbourne University/Melbourne Rebels)
17. Tom Moloney (Harlequin/Melbourne Rebels)
18. Tyrel Lomax (Tuggeranong Vikings (ACT)/Melbourne Rebels)*
19. Alex Toolis (Edinburgh (UK)/Melbourne Rebels)*
20. Ikapote Tupai (Melbourne Unicorns)*
21. Ben Meehan (Box Hill/Melbourne Rebels)
22. Lloyd Johansson (Harlequin)
23. Taiso Silafai-Leaana (Power House)