Rebels lose Stirzaker for opener

Date published: February 25 2016

New Melbourne Rebels skipper Nic Stirzaker has failed to overcome a shoulder injury in time for Saturday night's Super Rugby clash with the Western Force in Perth.

Stirzaker's absence opens the door for Sean McMahon to take over the captaincy duties in the season opener.

Ben Meehan will start at scrumhalf in the absence of Stirzaker, with winger Reece Hodge named to make his Super Rugby debut.

"We gave Nic every opportunity to prove his fitness and availability for this weekend but, unfortunately, ran out of time," Rebels coach Tony McGahan said.

"And we're not willing to risk further injury to his shoulder in the opening round."

The Force will be without star back-rower Ben McCalman, who is expected to miss the first two rounds following his recent playing stint in Japan.

Jono Lance beat out fellow recruit Peter Grant for first crack at five-eighth for the Force, while former Red Ben Tapuai has been named at outside centre.

The Rebels have included recruits Adam Thomson and James Hanson in their starting line-up.