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Hodge plans to leave Melbourne with great farewell gift

Reece Hodge already has a few good reasons to celebrate but says nothing will top a win by Melbourne over the Western Force in their Super Rugby Pacific clash.

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While the 11th-placed Rebels are set to miss finals, the Force are looking to hold on to the eighth spot with two rounds remaining.

Hodge will surpass Tom English as the Rebels’ most-capped player, with Friday’s match his 99th in Melbourne colours since making his debut in 2016.

“Tom [English] was such a great player and a great bloke and someone I looked up to when I first came to the franchise, so it’s definitely an honour,” the 28-year-old said on Thursday.

“It’s a good moment for me but more importantly we’d love a win in front of our home fans on Friday.”

The game will also be Hodge’s last at home for the Rebels, with the Wallabies utility back joining Bayonne in France on a three-year deal.

“I probably haven’t thought too much about it until this week and it kind of hit me, the last captain’s run in Melbourne, last time driving to a home game,” he said.

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“Hopefully I can get back at some point post the move to France but it’s obviously emotional and I’d love to go out with a win.”

The Force have their tails up after a breakthrough win over an undermanned Brumbies outfit in Perth last round.

They also beat Melbourne in their round-one encounter.

The Rebels meanwhile were beaten by a penalty kick after the bell against the Highlanders last time out, effectively ending their play-off hopes.

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Hodge expected another tight battle against the fast-starting Force.

“The way they’ve started the game – against the Brumbies they were 21-0 up after not long, so they’re an impressive team playing some good footy and they get Izack Rodda back as well,” said Hodge, who will shift to 12 to allow for the return from injury of five-eighth Carter Gordon.

“They’re going to be a big test for us, and they’re in finals contention too, so hopefully we can match them physically up front and be clinical in our execution.”

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