Rebels change three for Waratahs
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Ryan Louwrens will get his chance to audition for the Melbourne Rebels starting scrumhalf role in their crunch Super Rugby clash against the Waratahs on Friday.
Both teams head into the AAMI Park match on the back of two losses to open the 2020 season.
Louwrens will replace Fiji international Frank Lomani in the No.9 jersey as coach Dave Wessels searches for a permanent replacement for Wallabies veteran Will Genia, now playing in Japan.
Partnering Matt Toomua, who has been cleared after a head knock, Louwrens is one of three changes to the Melbourne starting side who are desperate to crack an elusive win against their “bogey” team.
The Rebels have also named two-time Wallaby Richard Hardwick at openside flank while Campbell Magnay will start at No.13, pushing Test back Reece Hodge to the wing.
Former Western Force scrumhalf Louwrens was playing in Japan prior to the Rebels and Wessels likes the physicality he will bring to the role.
“Ryan made an impression when he came in at the back end of that game in Canberra so he gets an opportunity,” Wessels said on Wednesday.
“He’s a hell of a physical, confrontational No.9 and I think he’s one of those players who does more through actions than words.
“He’s incredibly fit, fast and has got a good pass on him.”
Wessels said Hardwick had earned his start lining up against Test captain Michael Hooper following a big pre-season.
His two Wallabies appearances came in 2017 but he’s been able to secure a regular starting jersey in Melbourne.
“We want someone in the back row to probably play more directly to the ball and that’s why he’s come into the mix,” Wessels said.
“We’ve gone with him for his specialist skills on the ground and the impression he’s made at the back-end of games gets a reward.”
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty (captain), 14 Reece Hodge, 13 Campbell Magnay, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Ryan Louwrens, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Michael Wells, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Ruan Smith, 2 Anaru Rangi, 1 Matt Gibbon.
Replacements: 16 Steven Misa, 17 Cameron Orr, 18 Cabous Eloff, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Rob Leota, 21 Angus Cottrell, 22 Frank Lomani, 23 Andrew Kellaway.
Date: Friday, February 14
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-off: 19.15 (08.15 GMT)
Referee: Damon Murphy (Australia)
Assistant referees: AJ Jacobs (South Africa), Nic Berry (Australia)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)