Following months of anticipation, the 2018 Vodafone Super Rugby season is upon us with the action set to kick off in Australia this weekend.
Across the four Australian teams 156 players have been signed to the 2018 season including 22 fresh faces who are in line to make their Super Rugby debut.
Each Australian team will also welcome back a stellar line up of experienced players with 21 of them set to celebrate a career landmark of either 50 or 100 Super Rugby caps during the season.
The Australian Conference kicks off in just two sleeps when the Melbourne Rebels go head to head with the Queensland Reds this Friday night at AAMI Park (7.45pm AEDT kick off).
New Rebels Head Coach David Wessels has a strong squad at his disposal with 13 Qantas Wallabies stars including Will Genia, Reece Hodge and Dane Haylett-Petty.
The squad also features Japan’s powerful number 8 Amanaki Mafi and former England lock Geoff Parling.
Newly appointed Captain Adam Coleman will be putting the Rebels jersey on for the first time alongside 16 others including Matt Philip and Jermaine Ainsley. At the ripe age of 26, Coleman has 48 Super Rugby caps under his belt together with 20 international appearances for the Wallabies.
The Rebels will face some tough interstate competition, going up against the Reds who are ready to fire under new Head Coach Brad Thorn.
Thorn has recruited 10 new players – seven being selected from the Queensland Country squad following their remarkable 2017 season which saw them win their first NRC Grand Final.
Included in that list is Wallabies Spring Tour development player Liam Wright, NRC leading try scorer Filipo Daugunu and NSW Country Eagles hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa.
Adding to this, 20 Reds players have been retained from the 2017 squad including Wallabies Lukhan Tui, Izack Rodda, Samu Kerevi, James Slipper, George Smith, Taniela Tupou and Captain Scott Higginbotham.
Higginbotham will be the 117th Captain to lead the Reds and brings with him a wealth of experience following 123 Super Rugby games and 34 Tests for Australia.
Following this match, the Brumbies who were Australia’s 2017 Conference Champions, will open their season in Tokyo on Saturday against the Sunwolves (3.15pm AEDT kick off).
The Canberra-based squad will welcome back Wallaby David Pocock following a break from Australian Rugby. The powerful back-rower will lead the forward pack alongside a lineup of fresh faces including Mees Erasmus, Richie Arnold, Isi Naisarani, Lachie McCaffrey and Folau Fainga’a.
Head Coach Dan McKellar will also have 13 Wallabies and international stars to call on including Tevita Kuridrani, Scott Sio and Henry Speight.
Co-Captain Christian Lealiifano is ready to lead the squad alongside fellow Wallaby Sam Carter. Lealiifano recently re-joined the side from Top 14 outfit Ulster after overcoming his battle with leukaemia.
Later that night, Australia’s most recent Super Rugby champions, the Waratahs, will begin their quest for a second title against the Stormers at Allianz Stadium (7.45pm AEDT kick off).
The ‘Tahs boast a star-studded line up of Wallabies including Captain Michael Hooper, Kurtley Beale, Bernard Foley and Israel Folau.
It’s set to be another big year for the inspirational Hooper with the 26-year-old to lead the side for a fourth successive season.
Beale has returned to Sydney following a stint for Wasps in the English Premiership while lock Rob Simmons has made his way south following nine seasons in Queensland.
Head Coach Daryl Gibson has also introduced 10 new recruits to his 40-man squad including Tom Staniforth, Curtis Rona and Alex Newsome.
Every match will be broadcast live on FOX Sports and once again Network Ten will replay a feature match free to air nationally every Sunday morning at 8am on ONE.
Rebels (Squad of 37)
Brumbies (Squad of 39)
Waratahs (Squad of 40)