Rebels bring in Sevens stars for Reds clash
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Melbourne Rebels’ head coach, Dave Wessels, has made five changes ahead of the Rebels’ Round Seven Easter Saturday blockbuster against the first-placed Queensland Reds at AAMI Park.
Former Australian Sevens stars, Lewis Holland and Jeral Skelton, have been selected to make their Super Rugby debuts, with both players named as replacements for the clash.
After relocating to Melbourne last year following the cancellation of the Sevens World Rugby Series due to COIVD-19, Holland and Skelton have thrived making the transition to XV’s, with both players enjoying stellar pre-seasons this year.
Their inclusions will be welcome additions to a hungry Rebels side looking to claim its third consecutive Super Rugby AU victory and cement its standing in post-season contention, with the Super Rugby AU Finals now just four games away.
Saturday’s game also represents an opportunity for Melbourne to equal a team record, fourth consecutive win at home for the first time since 2015.
The Rebels have made two changes to their starting XV, with Jordan Uelese’s strong form seeing the robust hooker rewarded with the No.2 jersey, joining Cabous Eloff and Pone Fa’amausili in the front row.
Steve Cummins and Trevor Hosea will pair in the second row for the third time this season, with both players enjoying standout games in their side’s Round Five win over the Waratahs.
Richard Hardwick will once again be joined by Michael Wells and recently named Wallabies squad member, Josh Kemeny, as the loose forwards, with the trio combining for an extraordinary 121 tackles so far this season.
Captain, Matt To’omua, and Joe Powell will continue to lead in the halves, with the pair making their fifth consecutive starting appearance together, as will Reece Hodge and Stacey Ili in the centres. Ili will be looking to extend his impressive form at home, after making an exhilarating AAMI Park debut against the Waratahs.
Frank Lomani is the only change to the Rebels’ backline, with the Fijian international set to make his first start of the year, replacing the Lachie Anderson at 14, who’s unavailable through injury. Lomani will combine on the wing with close-friend Marika Koroibete, who’s enjoyed a scintillating start to Season 2021, placing among the competition’s leaders in carries (47) clean breaks (8), offloads (8) and metres run (348).
Joining the duo will be fullback, Tom Pincus, who’s made a strong impression of his own in his second season with the Rebels. Entering this week’s clash, Pincus trails only Koroibete in metres carried (252) and clean breaks (8).
Meanwhile, Albert Anae is set to become the third player to make their Rebels debut this weekend, after being named as a replacement tighthead prop, joining James Hanson, Matt Gibbon, Thomas Nowlan and Rob Leota on the bench.
James Tuttle will again be called upon as the back-up number nine, with Lewis Holland and Jeral Skelton rounding out the 23-man squad, while Lucio Sordoni and Glen Vaihu have been named as the 24 and 25th men respectively.
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Tom Pincus, 14 Frank Lomani, 13 Stacey Ili, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Matt To’omua (captain), 9 Joe Powell, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Joshua Kemeny, 5 Trevor Hosea, 4 Steve Cummins, 3 Pone Fa’amausili, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Cabous Eloff.
Replacements – from: 16 James Hanson, 17 Matt Gibbon, 18 Albert Anae, 19 Tom Nowlan, 20 Robert Leota, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Lewis Holland, 23 Jeral Skelton, 24 Lucio Sordoni, 25 Glen Vaihu.
Date: Saturday, April 3
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-off: 19.45 (18.45 AEST; 08.45 GMT)
Assistant referees: TBC