Marika Koroibete during a Melbourne Rebels training session.
Marika Koroibete during a Melbourne Rebels training session. Scott Barbour

Tough ask awaits Koroibete in Super Rugby debut

MARIKA Koroibete will make his eagerly anticipated Super Rugby debut in Wellington on Saturday as the Melbourne Rebels prepare for another early-season test of their mettle.

Mercifully, after last week's horror 56-18 season-opening loss to the Auckland Blues at AAMI Park, the Rebels will also regain the experience of Wallabies hooker James Hanson and gun centre Mitch Inman.

Captain Nic Stirzaker has also been cleared to play despite going off with concussion last week.

But it makes the clash with the Hurricanes at Westpac Stadium no less daunting, especially given the defending champions started their campaign with a 83-17 slaughtering of the Sunwolves in Tokyo last week.

Code-hopper Koroibete was Melbourne's big off-season recruit after he made the decision to switch from NRL giant Melbourne Storm.

Much of the Rebels' pre-season plans were based around his explosive potential and also that of fellow Fijian-born winger Sefa Naivalu - who remains sidelined by illness - with coach Tony McGahan promising to play a more expansive game in 2017.

Those plans came a cropper last week, with the Blues pouncing on any mistake made by the young Rebels side.

But McGahan said the team had "learnt some good lessons" against Auckland, vowing to fix up some key areas needing attention.

Koroibete, 24, hurt his knee in pre-season training and missed both trial games as a result.

Hanson hurt his hip and leg in the final trial of the summer, which kept him out of the Blues loss, while Inman was a late withdrawal with a hamstring complaint.

Still missing, aside from Naivalu, are locks Sean McMahon (ankle), Sam Jeffries (ankle) and Dom Day (shoulder), while prop Toby Smith (hamstring) is a long-term proposition.

Saturday's game is only the third time the Rebels have played in Wellington, with the Hurricanes winning convincingly in both previous encounters.

News Corp Australia

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