First-up 'Tahs are lucky for Rebels: Deans - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

First-up 'Tahs are lucky for Rebels: Deans

By Melissa Woods 17/02/2011 06:26:23 PM Comments (0)

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans says the Melbourne Rebels are fortunate to be meeting Australia's top-rated Super Rugby side the NSW Waratahs in the opening round.

The Rebels will be given a baptism of fire against the Waratahs at AAMI Park in Melbourne on Friday night as they look to make their mark on the expanded competition.

Deans still holds the record as Super Rugby's most successful coach, steering the Crusaders to five titles before he took on Australia's top coaching job.

The Waratahs have only finished out of the top five once in the last six years - losing two finals to the Crusaders during that time - and are packed full of Test representatives.

They are considered the best chance of capturing an elusive Super Rugby title for Australia, which no team has been able to do since the Brumbies in 2004.

Deans believes it's a blessing the new boys will tackle them early in the season before they've hit full stride.

"I think probably the Rebels are fortunate that they're meeting the Waratahs when they are, Deans said at the Weary Dunlop lunch in Melbourne.

"Because there's no doubt they're going to be there at the far end I suspect and the Rebels have got a great opportunity to make a statement on the first outing."

Deans will stay in Melbourne to watch the match and no doubt keep a close eye on Melbourne skipper Stirling Mortlock, the former Test skipper who has made clear his ambitions to return to the Australian line-up for the World Cup in New Zealand later this year.

There are other contenders for a place in the Wallabies squad, including league recruit Cooper Vuna, who has impressed at inside centre during the Rebels' trial matches.

"The Rebels are going to be led by Stirling, who's had a remarkable career, the way he's come back after a back operation, he looks like a young man," Deans said.

"He's enthused, he's got fresh excitement, a challenge and opportunity.

"There's Mark Gerrard, who's come back from Japan, you've got (Julian) Huxley, Sam Cordingley, and the next generation of young blokes (Nick) Phipps and (Richard) Kingi who've come through the (Australian) sevens.

"Both side are chock full of talent."

Deans had a message for the Rebels should they replicate the Western Force, who only managed one win in their inaugural year in 2006 to finish last.

"The Crusaders came stone cold last in year one and it was probably the best thing that ever happened because when you're in that situation, you can't take anything for granted and you can't presume anything," he said.

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