New Rebel Naisarani the "complete package": Haylett-Petty

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

Rebels captain Dane Haylett-Petty has labelled Wallaby in waiting Isi Naisarani the “complete package” and a player to shine if the Rebels are to make a maiden Super Rugby finals appearance this season.

Naisarani has been named at No.8 for Friday's season-opener against the Brumbies in Canberra, with Haylett-Petty expecting him to be out to make an impact in his first outing against his former club.

The giant backrower gains eligibility to play for Australia in April and both Haylett-Petty and Rebels coach Dave Wessels expect big things as Naisarani attempts to fill the shoes of departed No.8 Amanaki Mafi and demonstrate he can be a genuine contributor to Michael Cheika's World Cup squad.

"I think Mafi was good for us last year but he was also our most heavily penalised player," Haylett-Petty said.

"Isi is a more complete package, great workrate, good in defence, good in attack, I think he's going to be very good for us throughout the year.

"Obviously there's a point to prove playing against the Brumbies for him and he's just a really good guy, great guy to have around the group, very humble, comes and works hard every single day so he's great for the team."

Wessels is familiar with Naisarani's potential, having handed him his Super Rugby debut at the Western Force in 2017.And he's thrilled to be working with him again after the Rebels snapped him up from the Brumbies in the off-season.

"We're lucky with Isi because obviously we've worked with him before as a coaching group and he's just aside from anything, just a great guy," he said of the former Brisbane club star who turned 23 on Thursday.

"He's just a really humble, hard working guy and a great guy to have around.

"People forget he's only going into his third season of Super Rugby - he's a hell of a player for a guy who's only going into his third season.

"The really exciting thing about him is he's still young and being as coachable as he is, he's still got a huge amount of upside.

"He could really be anything in years to come as long as he keeps working hard."

While Brumbies coach Dan McKellar labelled Naisarani "just another player", he and his side are well aware of the No.8's ability.

"He's good fella and a very good footballer - powerful, dynamic, (we've got to) be aware of his little sneaky pick-and-goes through the middle of a ruck," McKellar said.

Isi Naisarani has made the players' choice team of the year. Photo: Getty Images

Discipline was one of the major issues for the Rebels last year despite their many other improvements, it's something Haylett-Petty and his men are aware of heading into Friday's season opener.

"I think that probably hurt us more than anything last year was the discipline," he said.

"I feel like last year we probably, on the field, took a few too many shortcuts, probably (were) a little bit lazy and it's something we maybe didn't pick up through the preseason.

"Once the season starts it's a little bit hard to turn around but we knew that was an issue coming out of last season.

"We obviously reflected really hard on the season and made a lot of changes and hopefully we stamp that out.

"Against the Brumbies more than anyone, we know that's going to be very important."

The Rebels take on the Brumbies on Friday, February 15, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RUGBY.com.au radio. Buy tickets here.