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Koroibete to face The Bus in Rebels debut

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 2/03/2017 John Salvado

Former NRL star Marika Koroibete faces a big test in his much-anticipated Super Rugby debut for the Melbourne Rebels when he confronts heavyweight All Blacks try machine Julian Savea.

Having overcome the knee injury which sidelined him from the pre-season and the heavy round-one home loss to the Blues, Koroibete has been selected to start on the right wing on Saturday against the red-hot Hurricanes in Wellington.

Lining up against him is 192cm, 107kg Savea, nicknamed The Bus, who has scored 45 tries in his 52 Tests.

Rebels coach Tony McGahan has made three changes to his starting line-up, bringing in hooker James Hanson, centre Mitch Inman and Koroibete.

"There's no bigger challenge in Super Rugby right now than the defending champions in Wellington, but we've prepared well and the return of key players will provide some much-needed experience and firepower," said McGahan.

Koroibete, 24, spent the previous three seasons with the Melbourne Storm, accumulating 34 tries from 58 games, before making the switch to rugby.

Such was his obvious potential that Wallabies coach Michael Cheika drafted him straight into his squad late last year for the tour of Europe, just weeks after playing in the NRL grand final loss to Cronulla.

He did not get a Test on tour but he gained valuable practice time with Australia's best players.

Fit-again Hanson and Inman come straight into the Rebels' starting 15, with Inman to partner Reece Hodge in the centres.

Captain and halfback Nic Stirzaker has been passed fit to play against the Hurricanes, despite a head knock limiting him to only 10 minutes of game time in the 56-18 loss to the Blues.

"We learnt some good lessons in round one that we've taken away," said McGahan.

"Our attention has been on fixing up those key areas at training this week or else good sides will continue to punish our mistakes."

The Hurricanes have won their past four clashes with Melbourne.

The NZ franchise opened their 2017 campaign in style with a thumping 83-17 victory against the Sunwolves in Tokyo.

Rebels: Jack Debreczeni, Marika Koroibete, Mitch Inman, Reece Hodge, Tom English, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Nic Stirzaker (capt), Amanaki Mafi, Colby Fainga'a, Jordy Reid, Lopeti Timani, Steve Cummins, Laurie Weeks, James Hanson, Cruze Ah-Nau. Res: Pat Leafa, Tom Moloney, Tyrel Lomax, Culum Retallick, Jake Schatz, Ben Meehan, Sione Tuipulotu, Ben Volavola.

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