Up to four players are set to make their debuts for the Rebels in Friday's Super Rugby opener against the Crusaders in Christchurch.
Rebels coach Tony McGahan named Wallabies Mike Harris and Dom Shipperley in his starting line-up for their first appearance, while Ben Whittaker and Sefanaia Naivalu have been named as reserves.
Whittaker signed for the Rebels after returning to Melbourne from Biarritz, while Naivalu could make history if he becomes the first ever player to represent the Rebels after being signed from the Dewar Shield, Victoria’s premier Club Rugby competition.
In other selection news, centre Tamati Ellison has returned from his playing stint in Japan’s Top League to resume his fruitful midfield partnership with Mitch Inman, while Nic Stirzaker and Jack Debreczeni will pick up where they left off with the Melbourne Rising in the National Rugby Championship, after being named as the halfback pairing.
Sam Jeffries will be hopeful of adding to his one Super Rugby cap, earned in the final round last year, after the second-row was named on the bench.
McGahan said that with only one player (Tom Kingston) unavailable due to injury, selecting a squad of 23 was a difficult task.
“It’s a good position to be in, with almost everybody up and running and competing for places,” he revealed.
“We have had to leave behind some very good players, who are very disappointed.”
"The 23 we selected get the first opportunity to represent us in Round One; they have earned it, and we’re excited to get out there and kick off our campaign.”
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Mike Harris, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Tom English, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Nic Stirzaker, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Ben Whittaker, 17 Cruze Ah-Nau, 18 Paul Alo-Emile, 19 Sam Jeffries, 20 Scott Fuglistaller, 21 Luke Burgess, 22 Bryce Hegarty, 23 Sefanaia Naivalu.
Date: Friday, February 13
Venue: AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Kickoff: 19:35 local (06:35 GMT)
Referee: Nick Briant
Assistant referees: Shane McDermott, Brandon Pickerill
TMO: Aaron Paterson