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Rebels to blood four in Super clash

The Rebels are prepared to match their code rivals Storm and stay away from COVID-19 hot-bed Melbourne for the duration of Super Rugby AU if required.

The NRL powerhouse have declared they may have to stay in their new Queensland base for the entire season and veteran Melbourne playmaker Matt Toomua says they will do the same to ensure the new rugby competition continues.

Ahead of their opening Super Rugby AU match against the Brumbies in Canberra, where they have relocated to, Toomua says he expects times to get tough.

But he said his team were up for it.

“It’s a time of doing things for the greater good and by no means do we feel like that’s our job done,” Toomua said

“We still have our ambitions to win this tournament, as everyone does, so I’m not saying we won’t face our challenges throughout it.

“Things like homesickness, the novelty all wearing off, the stresses at home.

“It’s a little bit different than what we’ve faced in the past but I’m confident we’ve got the environment to help guys through that.”

Toomua will play his 100th Super Rugby match on Saturday night, lining up against the club where started his career.

He felt Brumbies youngster Noah Lolesio got the better of him in their round two meeting and was looking to square up.

Toomua admitted it was a strange time to be bringing up his milestone.

“It is odd, but we’re all just excited to play – I don’t think I need any more motivation,” the 30-year-old said.

“It’s a bit fitting coming back here to have it in Canberra … but coming back from this COVID thing it’s very much overshadowed.

“There’s a lot of fresh blood out there and I think it’s a cool little chapter we’re about to write for Australian rugby.”

Toomua felt the Rebels were hitting their straps when the regular Super competition was shut down in March after seven rounds, with the Brumbies runaway Australian conference leaders.

“When this new competition happened, the Waratahs were pretty happy we were all starting fresh on zero points, the Brumbies were pretty filthy, and we were pretty ambivalent.

“If you look at the competition you probably think Brumbies away is one of the tougher matches and we’ve got that round one and that gets you going, which is good.”

Injuries have opened the door for four players to make their Melbourne Rebels debut.

The Rebels will be without Wallabies No.8 Isi Naisairani, who has a hamstring injury, with a number of new faces in their pack.

Former Sunwolves lock Michael Stolberg has forced his way into the starting side, 21-year-old Josh Kemeny will wear the No.6 jersey for the first time after impressing during the COVID break, while forwards Efitusi Maafu and Trevor Hosea have been included on the bench.

Hooker Anaru Rangi will miss the clash with a knee injury, with Test rake Jordan Uelese starting.

Rebels: Dane Haylett-Petty, Andrew Kellaway, Reece Hodge, Billy Meakes, Marika Koroibete, Matt Toomua, Ryan Louwrens, Michael Wells, Richard Hardwick, Josh Kemeny, Michael Stolberg, Matt Philip, Pone Fa’amausili, Jordan Uelese, Matt Gibbon. Reserves: Efitusi Maafu, Cameron Orr, Jermaine Ainsley, Trevor Hosea, Esei Haangana, Rob Leota, Frank Lomani, Andrew Deegan.

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