Melbourne Rebels Set to Deliver for Fans at AAMI Park on Opening Night

Wed, Feb 21, 2024, 1:06 AM
Rebels Media
by Rebels Media

The Melbourne Rebels are gearing up for their first home game of the season at AAMI Park, and fans can expect an impressive display from a team led by Victorian Captain Rob Leota.

Headlining the match day 23 is a group of Rebels debutants set to make an immediate impact with fans at their new home of AAMI Park, pulling on the Rebels jersey for the first time.

Towering Lock Lukhan Salakaia-Loto will make his mark on Super Rugby once again with his hard carries, competitiveness, and skill at the lineout. Fresh from a stint in England, the deft yet powerful second row brings a wealth of experience and presence to an impressive Rebels forward pack.

Bringing an impact in the later stages of the game, powerful tighthead prop Taniela Tupou will be itching to take the field for the Rebels, with fans reeling at the chance to see the Tongan Thor in action.

Joining the Rebels debutant list will be capped English scrumhalf Jack Maunder, who will play his first game of Super Rugby for the Melbourne side after impressing in the preseason trials, with starting outside centre Filipo Daugunu and reserve playmaker Jake Strachan.

Matt Gibbon, Jordan Uelese, and Sam Talakai lead the charge in the starting front row, backed up by the lock pairing of local Josh Canham and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto.

Josh Kemeny will be joined in the backrow by Captain Rob Leota and Brad Wilkin, who will play his 50th Super Rugby Game this Friday under the lights of AAMI Park.

The half combination of Maunder and flyhalf Carter Gordon will look to add a new dimension to the Rebels' attack and build on the success of the playmakers' standout year in 2023.

The explosive David Feliuai will compliment the rapid Daugunu in midfield alongside a contingent of threatening speedsters, with Lachie Anderson and Glen Vaihu on their respective wings and Andrew Kellaway at full back.

Rebels Head Coach Kevin Foote is excited about the Rebels' first home game for 2024 and is looking forward to the boys putting their pre-season work into action. "We know how important this game is to our fans, members as well as to our city and state. We are ready to go out there and give them a performance they can be proud of.”

Following their outstanding preseason displays against the Waratahs and Fiji Drua, Isaac Kailea and Alex Mafi have been named as front row replacements with debutant Taniela Tupou.

Tuaina Taii Tualima will provide crucial late-game energy and versatility to an already impressive bench.

Vaiolini Ekuasi has been named as the final forward replacement, with his immense physicality and work rate through the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific Season, impressing all who saw the back-row prodigy bullying opposition defences at home and on the road.

With the ability to shift the tempo of the game and create options for their teammates, Nick Jooste, Jake Strachan, and James Tuttle round out the Match Day 23, in a team that demonstrates the depth of squad that Head Coach Kevin Foote and General Manager of Rugby Nick Stiles have assembled.

Captain Rob Leota has expressed the pride he has in his team when he takes the field. Playing for their city and representing against the Brumbies, he said, "I'm excited to put the jersey back on again. Keen to do a job for Melbourne and make the fans proud.”

The Melbourne Rebels face the Brumbies in Round 1 of the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific season, kicking off at 7:35 PM (AEDT), Friday, February 23 at AAMI Park. The match will be shown ad-free, live and on-demand on Stan Sport.
Starting Team 

1.    MATT GIBBON

2.    JORDAN UELESE

3.    SAM TALAKAI

4.    JOSH CANHAM

5.    LUKHAN SALAKAIA-LOTO*

6.    JOSH KEMENY

7.    BRAD WILKIN

8.    ROB LEOTA (c)

9.   JACK MAUNDER**

10.   CARTER GORDON

11.    GLEN VAIHU

12.    DAVID FELIUAI

13.    FILIPO DAUGUNU*

14.    LACHIE ANDERSON

15.    ANDREW KELLAWAY

Reserves 

16.    ALEX MAFI

17.    ISAAC KAILEA

18.    TANIELA TUPOU*

19.    TUAIANA TAII TUALIMA

20.    VAIOLINI EKUASI

21.    JAMES TUTTLE

22.    JAKE STRACHAN*

23.    NICK JOOSTE 

*Denotes Rebels Debut 

** Denotes Super Rugby Pacific Debut

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