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Tough start for Rebels against the Blues

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017    Getty Images

It will be Garden-Bachop's Super Rugby debut and he will also become the 100th player to start for the side. He debuts along with two other Rebels recruits No.8 Amanaki Mafi and wing Jack Maddocks.

However, the Rebels will be without key front rowers Toby Smith and James Hanson, both of who suffered injuries in the Rebels final pre-season game against the Reds. Also out is Sefa Naivalu who has an infection. Wallabies flanker Sean McMahon has also not been included in the side.

Coach Tony McGahan said on the Rebels website, melbournerebels.com, "A couple of injuries and illnesses during the trial phase has impacted selection for our season opener but the situation presents an early opportunity for players to put their hand up and stake their claim for positions.

"It's unfortunate we're missing key players for round one. We gave everyone the chance to prove their fitness and availability, but it's too early in the season to risk the long term health of our players with a big season still ahead of us."

Garden-Bachop's selection has meant Jack Debreczeni will start at fullback. Halfback and captain Nic Stirzaker will play his 50th Super Rugby game. The Rebels are also likely to see a third home grown Victorian player debut for them when hooker Jordan Uelese comes off the bench.

Wallaby No.8 Lopeti Timani will play at lock where he will be paired with Steve Cummins, who will be making his second appearance for the side.

McGahan said the Blues game was going to be a challenge and it was likely to be a tougher encounter than when they beat the Blues 42-22 in their last meeting two years ago.

"They're going to be a physical side full of confidence after their trial victory over the Chiefs last week, but we've got 23 fit players ready to roll up their sleeves and eager to impress," he said.

The Rebels side is: 1.Cruze Ah-Nau, 2.Pat Leafa, 3.Laurie Weeks, 4.Steve Cummins, 5.Lopeti Timani, 6.Jordy Reid, 7.Colby Fainga'a, 8.Amanaki Mafi, 9.Nic Stirzaker (captain), 10.Jackson Garden-Bachop, 11.Tom English, 12.Reece Hodge, 13.Mitch Inman, 14.Jack Maddocks, 15.Jack Debreczeni.

Substitutes: 16.Jordan Uelese, 17.Tom Moloney, 18.Tyrel Lomax, 19.Culum Retallick, 20.Jack Schatz, 21.Ben Meehan, 22.Sione Tuipulotu, 23.Jonah Placid.