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Rebels face depleted Blues in Super start

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 21/02/2017 Melissa Woods

The Melbourne Rebels are set to throw rookie Jack Maddocks into the Super Rugby cauldron in Thursday night's season-opening clash with an under-strength Blues at AAMI Park.

With their team to be named on Tuesday night, Rebels coach Tony McGahan said he'd been impressed during the pre-season with the former Australian under-20s back.

Maddocks, who only turned 20 this month, was chased by all the Super Rugby teams before deciding on the Rebels.

He actually sat on their bench for the final game of last season, just two weeks after signing when injuries left them short of selection numbers, but never made it onto the field.

"Jack had a fantastic year last year with the Australian under 20s," McGahan said.

"He came in being durable, had a full pre-season under his belt, picked up game time in both trials and also the (rugby) 10s and he's looked really comfortable out there."

McGahan said Maddocks was capable of playing anywhere in the backline, which would be hugely valuable after losing utility Mike Harris to France.

"We're excited about where the end product can be but we're excited by his fantastic attitude," McGahan said.

While missing injured star Wallabies flanker Sean McMahon and prop Toby Smith, Melbourne are facing a vastly weakened Blues outfit.

Co-captains Jerome Kaino and James Parsons and All Blacks lock Patrick Tuipulotu are all sidelined, along with Sonny Bill Williams, as expected, with lock Jimmy Tupou the new skipper.

Williams is still recovering from a ruptured achilles suffered at the Rio Olympics.

They have a new-look tight five, with only 19 Blues caps between them.

Three All Blacks, Charlie Faumuina, George Moala and Rene Ranger, have been named to come off the bench.

Former Melbourne NRL winger Matt Duffie has been named on the Blues' wing.

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