Rebels tweak pack for Chiefs clash
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Melbourne Rebels’ interim head coach, Kevin Foote, has named a strong match ahead of Sunday’s Round Four match against the Chiefs in Sydney.
A back-row reshuffle sees vice-captain, Michael Wells, return to the left flank, with popular workhorse, Richard Hardwick, recalled at No.7.
Hardwick was one of the Rebels’ strongest contributors in Super Rugby AU, after starting seven games, playing over 500 minutes, and ranking among his side’s top performers in tackles, defenders beaten, and turnovers won.
The stocky flank’s inclusion allows Rebels’ star, Rob Leota, to switch back to left lock – a position he’s made his own during a breakout 2021 campaign.
Leota was once again one of Melbourne’s best players in last week’s clash against the Highlanders, providing plenty of run and physicality in a gruelling eighty-minute contest.
The twenty-four-year-old will no doubt play a crucial role in the Rebels’ chances of claiming a maiden Trans-Tasman victory on Sunday.
Another key Rebel to watch will be excitement machine, Marika Koroibete, who last week opened his 2021 scoring account by running through two tries, with his second major seeing him move to outright second place on the Melbourne Rebels’ all-time leading try-scorers list.
Koroibete has taken Australian rugby by storm since arriving at the Rebels in 2017, with the twenty-eight-year-old having now scored 23 tries from 67 Super Rugby games, trailing only current Wallabies’ teammate, Reece Hodge, who has 31.
The explosive wing will again start alongside Sevens’ star, Lachie Anderson, and emerging fullback, George Worth, who continues to impress with his on-ball abilities in what is his first season with the Rebels.
Meanwhile, Rhys Van Nek looks set to make his second Super Rugby appearance of his young career, after recovering from a lower body injury sustained in Melbourne’s Round Two Super Rugby AU clash with the Queensland Reds.
The rampaging front rower has been named alongside James Hanson and Matt Gibbon, as front row replacements, while the experienced Ross Haylett-Petty joins Eastwood’s Michael Icely as Melbourne’s back row support.
James Tuttle has been brought in to play his first match since the Rebels’ Round Two battle in Wellington, joining speedster’s Andrew Kellaway and Frank Lomani in rounding out the Rebels’ matchday 23.
Foote, said: “Richard Hardwick has been brought into our starting XV. He’s been outstanding this year around the breakdown, both on attack and defence, and brings real clarity around what we need, and carries great strength ensuring we get the breakdown right.
“We’re fortunate to have great depth in our squad, so to have players such as Rhys Van Nek and Michael Icely be called up and firing to get the job done, it’s fantastic to see and we can’t wait for Sunday.
Melbourne Rebels: 15 George Worth, 14 Lachie Anderson, 13 Stacy Ili, 12 Matt To’omua, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Carter Gordon, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Michael Wells, 5 Trevor Hosea, 4 Rob Leota, 3 Cabous Eloff, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Cameron Orr
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Matt Gibbon, 18 Rhys Van Neck, 19 Ross Haylett-Petty, 20 Michael Icely, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Andrew Kellaway, 23 Frank Lomani.
Date: Sunday, June 6
Venue: Leichhardt Oval, Sydney
Kick-off: 15.00 (17.00 NZST; 05.00 GMT)
Referee: Graham Cooper
Assistant referees: Brendon Pickerill, Ben O’Keeffe
TMO: Shane McDermott