Melbourne are on high alert for the rampant Reds in their Super Rugby AU clash on Friday night, with captain Matt To’omua saying the Queenslanders have a new edge to their game.

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With the bye in round one, the Rebels were keen observers of the Reds in their crushing 41-7 win over the NSW Waratahs.

Veteran Wallaby To’omua, who will form a new halves partnership with ex-Brumbies No 9 Joe Powell at Suncorp Stadium, said the home side were a danger team.

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Ross Karl is joined by Bryn Hall and James Parsons to look ahead to season 2021 of Super Rugby Aotearoa which kicks off this weekend.

And that’s without former NRL star Suliasi Vunivalu, who missed the opening match through suspension but has been named to make his rugby debut off the Reds bench.

To’omua said the ruthless nature of the victory had shown the growth in the young Queenslanders.

“They’re a team in form; they’re probably one of the more exciting teams to watch,” To’omua told AAP.

“The way they stuck it out on the weekend shows they’ve got a level of maturity that they probably didn’t have two or three years ago so they’re going to be tough.”

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Reds halfback Tate McDermott said he’d been working hard on his kicking game after feedback from Wallabies coach Dave Rennie and would look to do some damage against the Rebels.

He said he’d relish the chance to prove himself against Powell, who was also part of the Wallabies squad and helped steer the Brumbies to the 2020 Super Rugby AU grand final win over the Reds.

“If I can do it properly, and I have been putting quite a large amount of time into that side of things, it really benefits the team,” McDermott said.

“If the team needs me to kick I will 100 per cent put my hand and you saw that (against NSW).”

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Melbourne have dropped their opening games in 2019 and 2020 but Toomua said they were raring to get their season started, particularly after being forced out of Victoria again due to a COVID-19 outbreak earlier this month.

They also haven’t beaten Queensland in their last three outings.

To’omua missed most of Australia’s Tri-Nations campaign with a serious groin injury but is back to full fitness, although fellow test players Dane Haylett-Petty (head) and No 8 Isi Naisarani (hip) are out.

Tom Pincus is a surprise choice to start at fullback in his place, with the 2020 recruit having only played on the wing previously for Melbourne.

Prop Cabous Eloff gets his first starting debut as does Olympic sevens player Lachie Anderson, who is on the wing.

Stacey Ili will make his Super Rugby debut, partnering Reece Hodge in the centres.

Reds: Jock Campbell, Jordan Petaia, Hunter Paisami, Hamish Stewart, Filipo Daugunu, James O’Connor (c), Tate McDermott, Harry Wilson, Fraser McReight, Angus Scott-Young, Seru Uru, Angus Blyth, Taniela Tupou, Alex Mafi, Dane Zander. Reserves: Josh Nasser, Harry Hoopert, Feao Fotuaika, Ryan Smith, Sam Wallis, Moses Sorovi, Bryce Hegarty, Suliasi Vunivalu

Rebels: Tom Pincus, Lachie Anderson, Stace Ili, Reece Hodge, Marika Koroibete, Matt To’omua (c), Joe Powell, Michael Wells, Richard Hardwick, Brad Wilkin, Trevor Hosea, Steve Cummins, Vaauli Faamausili, Jordan Uelese, Cabous Eloff. Reserves: Ed Craig, Isaac Aedo Kailea, Rhys Van Nek, Rob Leota, Josh Kemeny, James Tuttle, Glen Vaihu, Frank Lomani

– Melissa Woods

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