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Rebels look to Kiwi rookie for Super start

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 22/02/2017 Melissa Woods
Jackson Garden-Bachop © Daniel Pockett/Getty Images Jackson Garden-Bachop

The Melbourne Rebels have faith that Kiwi Jackson Garden-Bachop is the man to "stand up" and lead them to victory as they open the Super Rugby season against the Blues on Thursday night.

The 22-year-old five-eighth comes from a long line of New Zealand internationals with dad Stephen Bachop, uncle Graeme Bachop and cousins Aaron and Nathan Mauger all playing for the All Blacks at either Test or tour level. Jackson's mum Sue also played for New Zealand.

Garden-Bachop was unable to crack a Super start in his homeland but has impressed Rebels coach Tony McGahan enough to hand him his debut at AAMI Park.

He will take over the play-making role from new fullback Jack Debreczeni, who never really hit his straps in 2016 after a promising debut the previous season.

"He has a nice control about things, he's confident about what he can do, he's confident about directing the team around the park and that's what we're looking for him to do," McGahan said.

"He needs to steer us and keep us going forward up the pitch and he's done that in pre-season.

"We understand what an important part the nine and 10 play in the success of the team and we really need someone to stand up and Jackson's got his start there."

McGahan admitted he was disappointed to go into the opening match without some key personnel including star NRL wing recruit Marika Koroibete and injured Wallabies Sefa Naivalu, Sean McMahon, James Hanson and Toby Smith.

While McMahon will miss six weeks and Smith 12, McGahan forecast the others would be available for round two, particularly with a long lead-in until their Saturday 4 March match against the champion Hurricanes.

"I'm a bit disappointed that we picked up a few injuries that leaves us a little bit short but the whole squad has been working really hard and everyone is eager to play round one," McGahan said.

Lessening the blow is that the Blues are also understrength, missing the likes of All Blacks Jerome Kaino, Sonny Bill Williams and Patrick Tuipulotu.

But McGahan said they would still be a formidable outfit, particularly with Test players George Moala and Rene Ranger and prop Charlie Faumuina on the bench.

The Melbourne mentor said it meant that the Blues would keep coming at them for the full 80 minutes.

"We've had a brief look at Blues but we've been too busy dealing with our own injuries to worry about their side," McGahan said.

"The players who have come in aren't newbies to their set-up.

"The Blues have great depth with players coming through a great competition under their Super Rugby."

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