Rebels get key players back for Brumbies clash
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: The Melbourne Rebels will enter this Sunday’s Super Rugby AU clash against the second-placed Brumbies, welcoming back a plethora of Super Rugby experience.
Rebels’ head coach, Dave Wessels, has made eight changes to last week’s matchday squad, headlined by the inclusion of Wallabies’ flank, Isi Naisarani, who is set to run out on AAMI Park for the first time since March 7, 2020, after successfully recovering from a lower leg injury.
Joining Naisarani in making their first appearance of 2021, will be reigning Weary Dunlop Award recipient, Cameron Orr, and centre, Campbell Magnay.
Ross Haylett-Petty has also been recalled after serving his three-match suspension.
Melbourne Rebels’ head coach, Dave Wessels, said: “It’s awesome to have so many guys back in the mix – we’ve gone through the majority of the season without having a lot of our senior players on deck, but having said that, I’m really proud of the guys who’ve held those positions, because they’ve done a really great job.
“We’ve missed three wins by the last play of the game, so we know we’re not far away, but we need to make sure we’re finishing off the moments we are creating, especially now being at the business end of the season. Every point and every moment in the game matters, so we need to be aware of that.”
After performing strongly since returning in Round Five, Matt Gibbon has been named to make his first start of the season, replacing Cabous Eloff at loosehead prop.
The twenty-five-year-old will be joined in the front row by James Hanson and Pone Fa’amausili. Narre Warren product, Trevor Hosea, will partner with fellow Burn Boy, Rob Leota, in the second row for the second consecutive game, while the ever-reliable trio of Richard Hardwick, Michael Wells and Josh Kemeny, will once again start as their side’s loose forwards.
Joe Powell will enter his first clash playing at home against his former side, carrying strong form after running for a season-high 48 metres and evading four defenders last week.
Powell will be joined by Matt To’omua at the 10, after the Rebels’ Skipper successfully recovered from a head knock suffered in the second half of last weekend’s match with the Western Force.
To’omua will be looking to repeat his most recent encounter with the Brumbies, in which the 113-game veteran slotted eight penalty goals from eight attempts, on his way to scoring 24 points for Melbourne.
Joining the returning Magnay at centre is Stacey Ili, who’s due to play the seventh game of his blossoming Super Rugby AU career.
The fastest wings in the competition will once again lead Melbourne’s attack, with Marika Koroibete and Frank Lomani selected at 11 and 14 respectively, while Tom Pincus returns at starting fullback, replacing Reece Hodge, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last weekend.
Pincus has compiled an impressive season to date, playing all six games and placing firmly in his side’s top performers for carries, metres run and clean breaks and looms as an important player in his side’s quest for their third win of the season.
Eltham and Northern Panthers’ product, Jordan Uelese, will once again be called upon as cover for the front row.
Uelese will be joined by Cabous Eloff, Ross Haylett-Petty, Lucio Sordoni and Cameron Orr, who’s successfully recovered from a lower-body injury.
Flanks, Brad Wilkin and Isi Naisarani, have been selected at 20 and 21, while Glen Vaihu has been recalled for his first game since Round Five.
Rounding out the Rebels’ matchday squad are Lewis Holland and James Tuttle.
This round shapes as a crucial moment in the Rebels’ 2021 Super Rugby AU campaign, with one point separating them from the fourth-placed Western Force, with just two games remaining in the regular season.
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Tom Pincus, 14 Frank Lomani, 13 Stacey Ili, 12 Campbell Magnay, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Matt To’omua (captain), 9 Joe Powell, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Joshua Kemeny, 5 Trevor Hosea, 4 Robert Leota, 3 Pone Faamausili, 2 James Hanson, 1 Matt Gibbon.
Replacements: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Cabous Eloff, 18 Cameron Orr, 19 Lucio Sordoni, 20 Ross Haylett-Petty, 21 Isi Naisarani, 22 Brad Wilkin, 23 James Tuttle, 24 Lewis Holland, 25 Glen Vaihu.
Date: Sunday, April 18
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-off: 14.00 (04.00 GMT)
Referee: Damon Murphy
Assistant referees: Jordan Way, Reuben Keane
TMO: Brett Cronan