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Melbourne Rebels

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James Hanson

James Hanson

Reds hooker James Hanson will leave the club at the conclusion of the 2015 Super Rugby season, after signing with the Melbourne Rebels.

Hanson made his Reds debut in 2010 and has played 80 games for the Brisbane based side. He has also played 9 Tests for the Wallabies since making his debut for Australia in 2012.

A product of Brisbane’s St. Joseph’s College Gregory Terrace and Premier Grade club University of Queensland, Hanson progressed through the Queensland pathway after 1st representing the state at Schoolboys level in 2005. He joined the Reds in 2008 as a member of their academy squad and made his Super Rugby debut 2 years later.

Reds head coach Richard Graham said: “James and Saia Fainga’a have jostled for the starting role over the last couple of seasons. ”

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Sefanaia Naivalu

Sefanaia Naivalu

Electrifying wing Sefanaia Naivalu is the only injury concern for the Melbourne Rebels as they prepare to face the DHL Stormers on Saturday.

Naivalu, who scored a double last week during the Rebels loss to the Reds in Brisbane, is facing a test before being declared fit to play against the Stormers in Cape Town at Newlands.

The speedster suffered a head knock against the Reds on Friday in Brisbane, and will follow concussion protocols this week.

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Melbourne RebelsImperium GroupThe Australian Rugby Union (ARU) and Victoria Rugby Union confirmed they have entered into an exclusive Heads of Agreement with Imperium Group, a Melbourne-based investment company, to acquire all shares in the Melbourne Rebels Rugby Union Limited, the company that controls the Melbourne Rebels.

“We’ve been discussing the sale of the Melbourne Rebels to ICG in recent months and we’re pleased to have reached agreement on the key terms of the deal,” ARU CEO Bill Pulver said.

“We are now progressing legal documentation and detailed due diligence is underway to finalise the transaction.

“We expect a formal transfer of the company will be completed by 30 June 2015.

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Sean McMahon

Sean McMahon

3 Internationals return to the Melbourne Rebels’ matchday 23 this week, as head coach Tony McGahan named his side to face the Reds at Ballymore on Friday in Round 14 of Super Rugby.

Wallaby loose forward Sean McMahon and All Black centre Tamati Ellison are injected straight into the starting lineup after each missing last week’s 42 / 22 win against the Blues with minor injuries, while Wallaby tighthead prop Laurie Weeks is named on the bench after recovering from a knee injury sustained in Round 7 against the Hurricanes in Wellington.

McGahan said it was pleasing to welcome back the trio.

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Sean McMahon

Sean McMahon

Melbourne Rebels and Wallaby loose forward Sean McMahon has been cleared of any serious damage to his hip, after limping off against the Chiefs in considerable pain last Saturday.

McMahon, who was replaced in the opening half of the Rebels’ 16 / 15 victory over the Chiefs at AAMI Park, will still need to pass a number of different tests to prove his availability ahead of the visit of the Blues this Friday.

Rebels’ head of athletic performance Bryce Cavanagh said McMahon’s injury was a painful blow to his hip, making movement difficult and uncomfortable for the 2nd year player.

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Super RugbyThe Vodacom Bulls are back at the Top of the South African Conference, taking over from the DHL Stormers who came up short in Bloemfontein on an exhilarating Saturday of Vodacom Super Rugby.

The weekend started on a disappointing note for the Cell C Sharks in Dunedin though. After a solid start for the visitors, the Highlanders turned on the heat and eventually beat the Durbanites by 48 / 15 in their opening tour match Down Under.

Saturday saw 2 cracking local derbies, both won by the home teams.

1st Up, the Toyota Cheetahs caused a minor upset when they won their 3rd successive home game against the DHL Stormers in Bloemfontein, by 25 / 17.

The home team outscored the visitors by 3 tries to 2 and thoroughly deserved their 4th win of the season. It was also only the 3rd time in 14 matches that the DHL Stormers could not score any Log Points against the Toyota Cheetahs.

The final match of the weekend was a proper humdinger in Pretoria, where the Vodacom Bulls beat their neighbours, the Emirates Lions, by 35 / 33. A total of 7 tries were scored as both sides went hammer and tongs against each other for the full 80 minutes.

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Luke Jones

Luke Jones

Telusa Veainu

Telusa Veainu

The Melbourne Rebels are hopeful that Wallaby lock Luke Jones and powerhouse wing Telusa Veainu will be in contention for selection this week against the Chiefs.

Jones missed the narrow defeat against the Waratahs on Saturday due to a delayed concussion.

While the Club expects Jones to be available, they will prioritise his wellbeing alongside teammate Telusa Veainu, who sustained a head knock in a Man Of The Match performance for Melbourne Unicorns in Round 5 of the Dewar Shield.

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Dom Shipperley

Dom Shipperley

Melbourne Rebels head coach Tony McGahan has re-introduced Sam Jeffries and Dom Shipperley into the squad, as he named his team to face the Waratahs at ANZ Stadium on Saturday in a clash which will commemorate the centenary of the Anzac landing.

Wallaby Shipperley returns to the starting line-up, while his Melbourne University teammate in second rower Sam Jeffries replacing Luke Jones in the squad, with Cadeyrn Neville elevated to start.

Jones developed concussion symptoms after the win in Canberra against the Brumbies last weekend, and the Rebels have opted to leave him out of the team as a precautionary method.

McGahan said that it was pleasing to be able to draw upon players with match fitness and form when changes were made.

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Toby Smith

Toby Smith

Loosehead prop Toby Smith has signed a new contract with the Melbourne Rebels keeping him at the club until 2017.

The former Chiefs prop joined the Rebels in 2014 and has impressed since moving to Australia after winning the Super Rugby title with the Chiefs.

And he has now extended his stay for a further 2 seasons, with the Rebels currently enjoying their best season since joining Super Rugby.

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Super RugbyThe DHL Stormers finished their Australasian tour with a 2nd win while the Vodacom Bulls consolidated their position at the Top of the South African Conference as Vodacom Super Rugby 2015 entered the 2nd half of the season.

However, the Toyota Cheetahs and Cell C Sharks both lost at home as the teams from Pretoria and Cape Town opened up a bit of a gap in the local conference and the Vodacom Bulls moved up to 2nd on the overall log.

The DHL Stormers were made to work hard for a scrappy win in Perth on Saturday afternoon as they defeated the struggling Western Force by 13 / 6, the only 5-pointer of the encounter a Penalty Try to the visitors after yet another superb scrum. The win concluded their best Australasian tour in 3 years.

Back home, the Vodacom Bulls and Cell C Sharks delivered a typically hard local derby in Durban with the 3-time champions from Pretoria ultimately winning by 17 / 10, with each team scoring a solitary try.

The Toyota Cheetahs unfortunately could not build on their good win in Perth last weekend when they were beaten by 18 / 17 by the Reds in Bloemfontein.

Down Under, the defending champions – the Waratahs and the Chiefs recorded impressive victories in Wellington and Christchurch respectively.

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Michael Cheika - Wallabies coach

Michael Cheika – Wallabies coach

The Australian conference’s struggles in Super Rugby has alarm bells ringing Down Under, where media pundits have condemned the nation’s lack of playing depth in a Rugby World Cup year.

4 Of Australia’s teams, including the reigning champion Waratahs, are mired in the bottom 6 of the 15-team southern hemisphere competition halfway through the season.

The 5th, Canberra-based Brumbies, are 2nd but battling to hold ground against New Zealand and South African rivals amid a mounting injury toll.

The conference’s solid performance last season, when the Waratahs broke through for their maiden title and the Brumbies reached the semi-finals, was hailed as a sign of the increasing depth of Australian rugby.

Those achievements have been quickly forgotten, with the Melbourne Rebels, Reds and Western Force conjuring a total of 5 wins between them from the opening 9 Rounds.

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Laurie Weeks

Laurie Weeks

Laurie Weeks has avoided surgery after injuring his knee in Friday’s loss to the Hurricanes, however the foundation Rebel will be sidelined for 6 to 8 weeks after scans confirmed a fracture of his left tibial plateau.

The news was bitter-sweet for the club, pleased he had avoided a season-ending injury but also disappointed to lose Laurie for an extended period.

“We call Laurie ‘Mr Rebel’,” Head of Athletic Performance Bryce Cavanagh explained. “He is a wonderful, positive influence on the group, and his experience is invaluable; we’ll miss that on the field.

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Melbourne RebelsMelbourne Rebels head coach Tony McGahan has made several changes to his starting 15 for Friday’s clash with the Hurricanes in Wellington.

Rebels centre Mitch Inman becomes the 5th player to play 50 matches for the franchise, while co-captain Scott Higginbotham makes his 100th Super Rugby appearance.

Tighthead prop Laurie Weeks will also overtake former player Hugh Pyle as the most-capped player in the franchise’s history, moving to 59 Rebels caps.

McGahan was pleased to see the players reach these milestones, and stressed the importance of acknowledging them.

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Dom Shipperley

Dom Shipperley

The Melbourne Rebels will be without winger Dom Shipperley until at least Round 11 in Super Rugby after he fractured his hand playing against the Emirates Lions.

Rebeles winger Shipperley suffered the injury in the Rebels 20 / 16 loss to the Lions at AAMI Park on Friday and will be sidelined for an estimated 4 – 6 weeks.

Shipperley, who was making his 50th Super Rugby appearance, has started all 5 games for the Rebels this season since moving to Melbourne, however he will now be ruled out until at least Round 11 after undergoing surgery.

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Melbourne RebelsMelbourne Rebels’ head coach Tony McGahan made just 1 enforced change to his side to face the Emirates Lions on Friday at AAMI Park in Round 6 of the Super Rugby season.

Rebels recruits Mike Harris and Dom Shipperley will each make their 50th Super Rugby appearances this week.

Australian Under 20 fullback Jonah Placid, who made 1 Super Rugby appearance before moving to Melbourne, prior to the National Rugby Championship, will make his Rebels debut alongside his half-centurion former Reds teammates.

Jack Debreczeni, who earlier this week appeared on track to play, has been withdrawn with a minor knee complaint, with Harris moving to flyhalf and Placid starting at fullback.

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Luke Burgess

Luke Burgess

Tony McGahan, Melbourne Rebels coach, has made 1 forced change to the side that defeated the Crusaders in Round 1, as the Waratahs head to AAMI Park to face the Rebels this Friday.

Scrumhalf Nic Stirzaker has been suspended for 1 week, so Wallaby Luke Burgess moves to the starting lineup and exciting 2nd-year Rebel Ben Meehan is named in the matchday 23 for the first time this year.

Whilst disappointed to lose Stirzaker, McGahan had faith in the ability of both his scrumhalves to cover the loss.

“Nic is an important player for us, but we have quality players within this position,” he said.

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Scott Higginbotham

Scott Higginbotham

A SANZAR judicial hearing has found Scott Higginbotham of the Rebels not guilty of stamping on Richie Mccaw after he was cited against the Crusaders at the weekend.

No further sanction has been imposed on the player.

The incident occurred in the 50th minute during the match between the Crusaders and Rebels at AMI Stadium in Christchurch last Friday.

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Nic Stirzaker

Nic Stirzaker

The Duty Judicial Officer has accepted an acknowledgement of breach by Nic Stirzaker of the Rebels under Law 10.4 (b) Stamping or trampling. A player must not stamp or trample an opponent.

Stirzaker was cited after a Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Rebels at AMI Stadium, Christchurch on Friday 13 February 2015.

The player has been suspended from all forms of the game for one week up to and including Sunday 22 February 2015.

The Duty Judicial Officer, Nicholas Davidson QC, assessed the case and recorded:

“I took into account that the player admitted stamping which was accepted as reckless to the point of contact.

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Melbourne RebelsUp to four players could make their Melbourne Rebels debut in Round 1 of the 2015 Super Rugby season, after Tony McGahan named the recruits in his first matchday squad for the season.

Heading to Christchurch to face the Crusaders, McGahan named Wallabies Mike Harris and Dom Shipperley in his starting lineup for their first appearance for the club, while Ben Whittaker and Sefanaia Naivalu have been named as reserves.

Whittaker signed for the club after returning to Melbourne from Biarritz, while Naivalu could make history if the former Box Hill flyer becomes the first ever player to represent the Rebels after being signed from the Dewar Shield, Victoria’s premier club rugby competition.

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HighlandersMelbourne RebelsThe Melbourne Rebels have completed their pre-season schedule with a 25 / 24 come-from-behind victory over the Highlanders in a thrilling encounter at Harlequin club in Melbourne.

For the first ever time, a Victorian Club ground hosted a Super Rugby trial – as the Highlanders, finalists last season, ventured to Holmesglen Reserve to face the Rebels.

It was a physical clash throughout, with both sides impressive with ball in hand.

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Ben Whittaker

Ben Whittaker

New signing Ben Whittaker will make his first appearance for the Rebels they host the Highlanders in a Super Rugby pre-season outing in Melbourne on Thursday.

Coach Tony McGahan named a 26-man squad for the outing at the Harlequin club.

Whittaker will be joined by Lopeti Timani, who will feature for the first time this pre-season.

McGahan said he was looking forward to the franchise’s second trial game, against strong opposition.

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Shane Christie

Shane Christie

Shane Christie will captain the Highlanders as they complete their two-match preseason tour of Australia – against the Melbourne Rebels in Melbourne on Thursday.

Looking for their third win of the pre-season, the Highlanders will again employ a squad of 28 for the match.

Fumiaka Tanaka will rejoin the Highlanders for his first pre-season game, after meeting the team in Melbourne on his way back to New Zealand – following the completion of the Japanese Top League.

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Shota Horie

Shota Horie

Japanese international hooker Shota Horie will not return to the Rebels for the 2015 Super Rugby season.

Horie injured himself playing for his Japanese Top League Club, Panasonic Wild Knights, and will remain in his homeland to continue his rehabilitation ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Rebels’ Head Coach Tony McGahan was disappointed that Horie wouldn’t be returning to Melbourne.

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