Australia’s newest professional outfit insist they are better prepared for Super 15 rugby this term than they were last time out.
The Melbourne Rebels only came into existence in the build up to the 2011 Super Rugby season and eventually finished bottom of the standings after winning just three of their 16 games in their debut campaign.
Their opening fixture in Super Rugby was a 43-0 hammering at the hands of fellow Australians the Waratahs but coach Damien Hill is convinced his men will put up a better showing when the two teams clash again this Friday.
"For your first game to be at AAMI Park against a team of the calibre of the Waratahs meant there was a lot of expectation and excitement," was Hill’s assessment of the pressure on the Rebels ahead of last year’s opening fixture.
"This year the expectation and excitement is there, but it's not as erratic, it's more levelled.
"The players know what they're in for and they know what the competition is going to be, so I'd say they're more ready this year than they were last year.
"We hope this year's start is different from last year's. We'd love a win first up … but win, lose or draw, if we perform well and we're in it until the 80th minute, we'll get confidence out of that.
"Winning and losing hasn't been spoken about, it's more about are we doing the right amount of work and are we prepared? And the answer, so far, seems to be, yes."
The Rebels are missing summer signing Kurtley Beale from their matchday squad as the star full back hasn’t fully recovered from a hamstring problem.
But fellow new arrival and Wallaby sensation James O’Connor is available and is expected to link up with Lions hopeful Danny Cipriani in an exciting-looking 10-12 axis.
Hill, who took over from Rod Macqueen – the man who led the Wallabies to a series success against the Lions 11 years ago – is expecting a huge challenge against the Waratahs after the Sydney-based side ran defending champions the Reds close last weekend.
But, if the Rebels can compete up front, Hill is hopeful that the likes of O’Connor and Cipriani can be the difference between the starting with a win or a whimper.
"I expect that first 20 to 25 minutes to be similar to last year and just be a very physical contest," added Hill.
"Our forwards through the trial period and through training have put a lot of work in and they're as ready as ever.
"They're up against a formidable pack though, star-studded with Wallabies, and they had a good run against the Reds.
"But hopefully the difference this year to last year is that when the game starts to open up we’ll be able to take advantage of it."
The Rebels will face the Lions in Melbourne on June 25, four days before the second Test takes place in the same city.