The Melbourne Rebels have finalised their U19s squad ahead of the opening round of the National U19 Championships.
Melbourne Rebels U19s Head Coach, Pom Simona, has named a strong 28-man squad, boasting a number of Super Rugby contracted players including homegrown Rebels Daniel Maiava, Antonio Masina, Divad Palu, Patrick Lavemai, Joeli Niubalavu, Eyda Haisila, Sebastian Sialau and Lebron Naea, while Junior Wallabies pair Mason Gordon and David Vaihu have also been selected.
Shaw and Partners Rebels U18’s star, Leafi Talataina, has also won selection for the National Championships, continuing a stellar week which saw the Endeavour Hills prodigy represent the Australian Schools and U18s representative team and the Melbourne Rebels in Albury.
Next week’s official return to U19s competition marks the first time the National Championships have been held since 2019.
Melbourne Rebels U19s Head Coach, Pom Simona, says his squad is excited to test themselves against quality opposition, and proudly represent Victorian on the national stage.
“For some of our squad it’s their first taste of consistent representative rugby since 2019 with COVID putting a stop to our rep programs in 2020 and 2021,” said Simona.
“The squad is coming along well and building some great connections on and off the field. A lot of our players are reconnecting after playing together previously in junior state teams, so it’s been great to see those relationships re-develop again.
“They are understandably excited for the competition to start especially with our first game being at home. We want to play a fast and fearless brand of rugby that the Victorian community can be proud of.”
Simona believes the Championships will provide a great opportunity for the Rebels younger players to continue strengthening their Team Work Index (TWI), as the Rebels look to increase on-field connection ahead of the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season.
“As a Club, we have really focussed on building our TWI during the off-season and that will continue with the U19s program.”
“A lot of the players have played together since junior state teams and the U19s will be another step in increasing their TWI against quality opposition.
“The Penrith Panthers just went back-to-back and are a great example of a team with high TWI – the core of their squad has played together since they were juniors which has a lot of parallels with our EDS players in our U19s squad.
“Obviously, there’s a huge amount of hard work still to be done by us and our players to get to get to where we want to be, but TWI will be a key tool in that process.”
Alongside the Shaw and Partners Rebels U16s team, which was confirmed yesterday, the Rebels U19 will face off against the other four Australian Super Rugby franchises in a five-week national tournament.
After a Round 1 bye, Simona’s side will kick off their season against the Western Force at Power House Juniors on October 12 (1:30 pm) before travelling north for a clash with the Waratahs at Waratahs HQ (2:15 pm).
The Rebels will return back to Power House Juniors for an October 30 matchup with the Brumbies (1:30 pm), before concluding their regular season at Sunnybank Rugby Club, when they face the Queensland Reds (1:15 pm).
After the completion of the regular season, the two top sides will then face off in the final on November 13, with the host venue to be confirmed.
Following this, High Performance National Programs Coach Nathan Grey will then select a preliminary 2023 Junior Wallabies squad from the U19s championship.
Every match of the National U16 Rugby Championship will be broadcast live on Stan Sport.