5. Shota Horie – Hooker
The departure of Ged Robinson and Heath Tessman from the Rebels squad means the Japanese international will have a bigger role in the club this season. Having represented his nation on 27 occasions he has a wealth of experience to bring to the Rebels, but a starting spot for Horie still isn’t secure with young Irishman Tom Sexton joining the club from Pro 12 side Leinster in contention for a starting hooker birth. Can Horie hold down the no.2 jersey throughout 2014?
4. Toby Smith – Prop
After tasting premiership success in 2013 as one of the Chiefs starting props in their Super Rugby premiership, Toby Smith brings with him the knowledge of what it takes to be involved in a champion team. At just 25, it seems like he could be with the Rebels for several seasons to come, but will he bring the recent glory of the Chiefs with him to Melbourne? As the man with the most recent success to his name in the Rebels side, he will have to contend with new British recruit Max Lahiff, Laurie Weeks, and promising youngster Paul Alo-Emile for a starting prop position – probably the most competitive positions in the Rebels line-up.
3. Tamati Ellison – Centre
Ellison brings a lot of experience with him to Melbourne in 2014. A former All Black, he has the quality in him to perform well for the Rebels, and at 30 years of age he will provide a wise head to the otherwise young squadron of Melbourne backs. It will be interesting to see how the likes of Tom English, Telusa Veainu and Tom Kingston can feed off of him.
2. Jason Woodward – Fullback
Having secured a spot in the Melbourne team at the end of 2013 as the starting fullback, the exit of Kurtley Beale, James O’Connor and Richard Kingi means that the no.15 jersey is Woodward’s for the taking. At a raw 23, there will be great responsibility heaped onto the man from Wellington in a position the Rebels have struggled to find stability with over the last few years. Can Woodward make a name for himself in Super Rugby with a full consistent season at fullback?
1. Bryce Hegarty – Flyhalf
Arguably one of the most gifted players in the Rebels squad, Hegarty played just 5 matches at the end of 2013 but it was enough for him to win the Rebels Rising Star of the Year award. Now with a full pre-season under his belt, 2014 is going to be a big year for the young flyhalf. A lot will be expected of him in a vital position on the field, and a new partnership with Luke Burgess at the halves is crucial to helping Melbourne succeed this season. Many crystal-ballers have faith in the young man and see him as the brightest light in this Rebels group.