Rebels raring to get on field: Macqueen - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Rebels raring to get on field: Macqueen

Melissa Woods 11/01/2011 06:13:20 PM Comments (0)

Melbourne Rebels coach Rod Macqueen says his players are itching to get into action ahead of the team's historic debut, against Tonga on Saturday.

The newly-formed Super rugby side have been training solidly for three months and are counting the days until kick-off in the expanded international competition, with their round one clash set down for February 19 against the NSW Waratahs.

Melbourne's first match on Saturday, a trial against Tonga, will be the last fixture played at Olympic Park before its redevelopment.

All of the squad will take part with the exception of five players, Stirling Mortlock and Adam Freier, who have back injuries, Julian Huxley (osteitis pubis), former Australian rugby league international Luke Rooney (calf injury) and Mark Gerrard, who is still yet to arrive from playing duties in Japan.

Melbourne back Chris Slade will earn the honour of becoming the first local grade player to play for the Rebels after being drafted into the squad.

"We've been doing a bit of work with him for the last few weeks ... it will be interesting to see how he goes," Macqueen said, adding 26-year-old Slade could potentially become a full-time member.

Macqueen said the trial, which is the first of four including a February 5 clash against the perennially strong Crusaders, couldn't come soon enough for his side.

"It's interesting to see, we've got a situation where everyone's been together for three months and everyone's getting very edgy," Macqueen said.

"We're all ready to get on the field for the first time.

Rooney, who has been troubled by a calf strain for the past three weeks, said there was a bit of extra sting in a contact session on Monday.

"You can tell, they did a bit of contact and it was pretty full-on," he said.

"Everyone's excited, they just want to get out there."

Only able to run at about 80 per cent, Rooney hoped to be fit for their second trial match, also against Tonga, at Morwell on January 21.

"It's frustrating, I just don't want to push it but it's disappointing after a big pre-season," said Rooney.

Macqueen said former Wallabies skipper Mortlock would be fit for the second trial, while Huxley could be back for the Crusaders and Freier wouldn't play before the season opener.

"Stirling's come on really well but we thought we'd give him one more week."

Rebels chairman, millionaire businessman Harold Mitchell, announced the club would start an appeal for members of the rugby community affected by the Queensland floods.

The club hopes to raise $500,000, with the Rebels opening the appeal with a $100,000 donation.

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