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Real battle still ahead for Melbourne

By Melissa Woods 10/02/2011 11:33:19 AM Comments (0)

Melbourne fought long and hard to be included in Super Rugby, but the real battle is still ahead.

After losing out to Perth in their initial bid in 2005, the Rebels finally won the right to join the competition in 2011 when it was expanded to 15 teams.

Melbourne won't declare how many wins they're targeting in their debut year, aware that the Western Force only managed one victory in their inaugural Super season in 2006.

However they know if want to succeed in the AFL-mad state, they need to be competitive.

"I think it's the most commonly asked question of us - how many games are you going to win?" coach Rod Macqueen said.

"I don't think we can look at it that way, we've got to make sure that we're as competitive as we can possibly be.

"Chances are if we're competitive, we'll win games."

The Rebels started their recruitment with a bang, luring 23-year-old English bad boy five-eighth Danny Cipriani, who has played seven Tests for his country.

But they copped some criticism as a Dad's Army, with the likes of former Wallabies skipper Stirling Mortlock and fellow Australian veterans Julian Huxley, Adam Freier and Sam Cordingley and former All Black prop Greg Somerville joining the ranks.

They attracted Jarrod Saffy to switch codes after his NRL premiership win with the Dragons, while Cooper Vu na, JP Du Plessis and Luke Rooney also have a league background.

Set to wear the No.12 jersey, former Newcastle Knight Vu na has been the most impressive of the four, scoring a try in each of the Rebels' trial games.

While they may be lacking in youth and depth, there's no question about leadership with 13 former club captains in the squad.

Mortlock, who is making his comeback following back surgery, got the nod as the side's first skipper and he'll be backed by impressive Welsh No.8 Gareth Delve, who put aside his Six Nations ambitions to join the Rebels.

Mortlock said the move to Melbourne had given his game a "new lease of life" and he planned to use it to springboard back into the Wallabies for the World Cup in New Zealand later this year.

"It's a unique challenge but one that I'm looking forward to," he said.

"We're very lucky in this team that we've got a lot of guys who have experience leading so it's a matter of making sure we utilise that.

"There's a lot of guys are extremely competitive and driven so for us as a group we want to be competitive, we want to do Melbourne proud."

Macqueen, who steered Australia to World Cup glory in 1999, singled out youngsters winger Du Plessis, flanker Luke Jones and lock Hugh Pye as ones to watch.

He was satisfied with Melbourne's progress through their pre-season trials, which climaxed with a 19-14 loss to the Crusaders.

"You've always got to strive to be better but from my perspective, it appears we've got a side that's going to be competitive."

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