Rebels get Crusaders warm-up
September 30, 2010
AAMI Park will host rugby for the first time when the Crusaders visit © Getty Images
Super Rugby new boys the Melbourne Rebels have announced they will host the Crusaders in a pre-season trial at AAMI Park in the build-up to their first season.
The match, which will take place on February 5 next year, will be the first rugby union match at the new Melbourne venue. The 31,000 capacity AAMI Park also hosts football teams Victory and Heart and rugby league's Storm.
A warm-up against one of Super Rugby's strongest franchises should provide a stern test for the newcomers, who open their season proper at the same venue on February 18 against the Waratahs.
The complex new Super Rugby conference format sees teams miss out on a match against one opponent from each of the other two SANZAR countries in the regular season draw. The Crusaders and Rebels are such teams for each other, meaning they wouldn't have otherwise met in 2011 unless they face off in the finals.
Rebels head coach Rod Macqueen said: "The players are beginning to arrive in Melbourne and we are on track to implement our strategic training programme when training begins in early October. We have a lot to get through over the next few weeks and months but it is exciting to know that the squad are now reporting for duty.
"The training and conditioning programme will culminate in a number of trial matches and it is particularly exciting that we will play the Crusaders as part of the programme as they know what it takes to be successful in Super Rugby. They have won seven Super Rugby titles since the inception of the tournament in 1996.
"We are not scheduled to play the Crusaders as part of the initial conference pool structure but it will be a strong examination of our progress and will give us an understanding of where we are in terms of our performance levels prior to the start of the tournament."
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder said: "The Crusaders are looking forward to playing the Rebels. It's an honour for us to be part of the first rugby union match at AAMI Stadium and the game is a very important part of our pre-season programme. We know there are many Crusaders fans in Melbourne and we hope they turn out to support us in what should be a great occasion."
Meanwhile, the Rebels have continued to bolster their playing ranks with the signing of Afusipa Taumoepeau. The former Brumbies outside-back can cover at wing, fullback or centre.
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