“I’m over the moon to be playing – it’s been a while. Hopefully I can make the most of my opportunity,” Lonergan said.
“It was tough last year, I was hoping to get a bit of time on the field but it didn’t come. That just kept me hungry and working hard, and now I’m getting my shot.
“Will Genia is the best halfback in Australia at the moment and it’s a good comparison, a chance to get out there and learn something. The big thing is to not be intimidated.
“I’ll just play my game, do what I’m good at and stick to my strengths. I feel a bit more physically and mentally developed, just being around the group has helped me massively.”
“Hopefully everyone can be on the same page from the first minute because it will be a hostile environment in Melbourne and a long night if we’re not on from the first minute.
“The Rebels have a Wallabies-stacked back line and then Reece Hodge and Michael Ruru on the bench. They’ve got a lot of firepower, but we need to individually turn up to mark our opposition.”
Tom Cusack will add another breakdown presence after the Brumbies lost too much of their own possession last week. The Rebels will target the Brumbies at the breakdown again and also test the ACT side’s desire to attack from different situations.
“Cusack gives us really good [communication], energy and repeat efforts in defence. He knows our game well,” said Brumbies coach Dan McKellar.
“Pete [Samu] is there on the bench, but it’s not all about starting these days. You’ve got to make sure you finish the game well, these games will be won in the last half an hour or 10 minutes.”
Friday: Melbourne Rebels v ACT Brumbies at AAMI Park, 7.45pm. TV time: Live on Fox Sports.
Brumbies: 1. Scott Sio, 2. Folau Faingaa, 3. Allan Alaalatoa, 4. Rory Arnold, 5. Sam Carter, 6. Rob Valetini, 7. David Pocock, 8. Tom Cusack, 9. Joe Powell, 10. Christian Lealiifano, 11. Andy Muirhead, 12. Tom Wright, 13. Tevita Kuridrani, 14. Henry Speight, 15. Tom Banks. Reserves: 16. Josh Mann-Rea, 17. James Slipper, 18. Les Leuluaialii-Makin, 19. Murray Douglas, 20. Pete Samu, 21. Ryan Lonergan, 22. Wharenui Hawera, 23. Chance Peni.
Rebels: 1. Matt Gibbon, 2. Robbie Abel, 3. Sam Talakai, 4. Adam Coleman, 5. Matt Philip, 6. Rob Leota, 7. Brad Wilkin, 8. Isi Naisarani, 9. Will Genia, 10. Quade Cooper, 11. Marika Koroibete, 12. Billy Meakes, 13. Tom English, 14. Jack Maddocks, 15. Dane Haylett-Petty. Reserves: 16. Anaru Rangi, 17. Tetera Faulkner, 18. Jermaine Ainsley, 19. Luke Jones, 20. Ross Haylett-Petty, 21. Richard Hardwick, 22. Michael Ruru, 23. Reece Hodge.