AAP Rugby

Hodge, Coleman miss Rebels’ Super opener

By AAP Newswire

Injured Wallabies Reece Hodge and Adam Coleman have failed to recover in time for the Melbourne Rebels' round one Super Rugby clash with the Brumbies.

Isi Naisarani will make his Rebels debut against his former club on Friday night in Canberra after being named at No.8 on Wednesday.

Ex-Red Quade Cooper will also have his first Super Rugby appearance for Melbourne, leading a star-studded backline including Test players Marika Koroibete, Jack Maddocks and new skipper Dane Haylett-Petty.

With Hodge out with an ankle injury, Billy Meakes and Tom English are the starting centres.

Coleman remains sidelined while recovering from a thumb injury with Matt Philip and Luke Jones, in his second stint with the Rebels, the lock combination.

Hodge and Coleman are likely to be available following the round two bye.

Fiji-born Naisarani,who will qualify to play for the Wallabies ahead of the World Cup, replaces wrecking ball Amanaki Mafi although Rebels coach Dave Wessels says he's a very different player to the Japan international.

"The really exciting thing about Isi is that he's only going into his third season and being so young and hard-working and being as coachable as he is, he's still got a lot of upside," Wessels said.

"He could be anything in the years to come."

The two teams squared off in a trial last month with the Brumbies running out a 52-38 win but Wessels said with many personnel changes in both line-ups not much could be read into that result.

One thing the Rebels are on guard for is the Brumbies targeting Cooper as they did successfully with Waratahs five-eighth Mack Mason in their pre-season match.

Wessels described the match as a "massive challenge" but said they were better prepared heading into his second season than they were last year when they finished ninth - just outside the finals.

"We've done a much better job of tracking and trying to improve the things that we can control and our environments been really good and we've seen a lot of players improve out of sight," Wessels said.

Rebels: Dane Haylett-Petty (capt), Jack Maddocks, Tom English, Billy Meakes, Marika Koroibete, Quade Cooper, Will Genia, Isi Naisarani, Richard Hardwick, Angus Cottrell, Matt Philip, Luke Jones, Jermaine Ainsley, Anaru Rangi, Tetera Faulkner. Res: Robbie Abel, Matt Gibbon, Sam Talakai, Esi Ha'angana, Brad Wilkin, Rob Leota, Michael Ruru, Semisi Tupou.