Dissection of the 2013 Australian Super Rugby squads – Melbourne Rebels

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We continue our overview of the Australian Super Rugby teams and their chances for 2013 with a look at the Melbourne Rebels.

Best team

1. Laurie Weeks
2. Ged Robinson
3. Paul Alo-Emile
4. Hugh Pyle
5. Cadeyrn Neville
6. Scott Higginbotham
7. Jarrod Saffy
8. Gareth Delve
9. Nick Phipps
10. Kurtley Beale
11. Cooper Vuna
12. Rory Sidey
13. Mitch Inman
14. Kimami Situati
15. James O’Connor

16. Shota Horie
17. Eddie Aholelei
18. Chris Thomson
19. Luke Jones
20. Richard Kingi
21. Bryce Hegarty
22. Angus Roberts

Other members
23. Nic Henderson
24. James King
25. Scott Fuglistaller
26. Tim Davidson
27. Nic Stirzaker
28. Lachlan Mitchell
29. Jason Woodward
30. Alex Rokobaro

Extended playing squad
31. Pat Leafa – hooker
32. Cruze Ah-Nau – prop
33. Trent Dyer – No 8
34. Jordy Reid – openside
35. Tom English – centre

In
S Higginbotham, R Sidey, K Situai, E Aholelei, C Thomson, J Woodward, A Roberts, L Fuglistaller, N Stirzaker, A Rokobaro, B Hegarty

Out
Rodney Blake, Jono Owen, Adam Frier, Heath Tessman, Alister Campbell, Adam Byrnes, Michael Lipman, Danny Cipriani, Stirling Mortlock, Mark Gerrard, Tom Chamberlain, Julian Huxley, James Hilgendorf, Lloyd Johannson

Season chances
The Rebels will be banking on their big names to perform if they want to make an impact on this competition. Unfortunately they seem to again be lacking up front, which will not give them a strong basis for their big money backline.

The Phipps/Beale combo has received some much needed game time together and they appear to be developing a strong understanding of each other’s game. If they can get some front foot ball, this team will upset a few big names this season.

Predicted finish – conference fourth – overall 11th

Key Player
The Rebels seem to be missing a range of fetchers for 2013 and will be heavily reliant on Jarrod Saffy, who has not been in the traditional fetcher role in his past two years. He has been a strong performer for the Rebels and has narrowly missed out on Wallabies selection in past years. I am predicting Saffy’s biggest year, as he will benefit greatly from being part of such a strong backrow.

Up and comer
Paul Alo-Emile has not had any Super Rugby game time, but he has proved his worth in the Junior Wallabies system. He will need to step straight into the big time, as the Rebels are without much fire power up front. At 20, Alo-Emile is only an apprentice prop at scrum time, but does appear to have a bright future ahead of him.

Also keep an eye out for Bryce Hegarty who has chosen to join the Rebels after spending some time in the Broncos development squad. Bryce was touted as a future star for the Broncos, however I think he has made the right choice and learning off O’Connor and Beale will be great for his overall game.

Best buy
Scott Higginbotham is a fantastic acquisition for the Rebels and will form one of the most unlikely but best backrows with Saffy and Delve. He is strong, skilful and a handful in attack and defence. How he performs in a pack with a much weaker platform than the Queensland Reds will really determine his worth.

Biggest loss
The Rebels have relied heavily on a core of senior players to set a platform for the team and culture since their induction. Unfortunately this is where the torch must now be passed and the team looks to be significantly lacking in experience. However, this may work in the Rebels’ favour, similar to the ACT Brumbies last year, as an unknown entity.

When it comes down to the biggest loss, I think that Mark Gerrard was one of the best backs last year and was highly underrated by the Wallabies selectors. His boot and ability to turn nothing into opportunity will be missed by both fans and the Rebels.

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