Strong Rebels side to face Waratahs
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Melbourne Rebels head coach Dave Wessels has named a strong Match Day 23 ahead of his side’s must-win clash against the NSW Waratahs at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday.
Following an eye-catching return to Super Rugby AU action last week, Wallabies’ squad member, Isi Naisarani, has been promoted to the starting line-up for the first time since last year’s qualifying final against the Reds.
Naisarani will start at number eight, replacing Vice-Captain, Michael Wells, who shifts to left-side flank, while prestigious talent, Brad Wilkin, has been named as the Rebels’ right-side flank.
Joining Naisarani for their first start of the season is popular enforcer, Cameron Orr, who’s been selected at loosehead prop following an impressive second half return last week.
Orr will lead a reshuffled front row alongside Jordan Uelese and Cabous Eloff.
Experienced lock, Ross Haylett-Petty, will partner with Robert Leota in the second row for the first time this season, replacing the suspended Trevor Hosea, who was yesterday found guilty of making high contact with an opponent in a ruck during last Sunday’s match against the Brumbies.
The twenty-one-year-old will now miss the Rebels’ next two matches.
Two of the Rebels most consistent performers in 2021, Joe Powell and Matt To’omua, will partner in the halves for an eighth consecutive time this season.
To’omua will be looking to become the first Melbourne Rebel to claim Super Rugby AU’s leading point scorer title, trailing Queensland’s James O’Connor by just four points heading into the final round.
The exciting pairing of Stacey Ili and Campbell Magnay will receive another opportunity to develop at outside and inside centre, while the dynamic Marika Koroibete and Frank Lomani round out the back three alongside Tom Pincus.
Selected for his sixth start of the season, Pincus was one of his side’s best players during the Rebels’ 19-point win over the Waratahs in Round 3, running for a team-high 83 metres from 8 runs.
The twenty-eight-year-old’s speed and carry will be crucial as the Rebels look to set the tone early in Saturday’s must-win clash.
Meanwhile talented flyhalf, Carter Gordon, looks set to make his Super Rugby AU debut after being named as a replacement.
The exciting twenty-year-old joined the Rebels late last year and immediately hit the ground running, impressing his new teammates with his pace, maturity and exceptional on-ball skills.
Joining Gordon in making their first appearance in Rebels’ colours will be Englishman, George Worth, who is currently on loan from English Premiership side, Leicester Tigers.
Richard Hardwick and Josh Kemeny will be called upon as cover for the backrow, while Pone Fa’amausili, James Hanson and Matt Gibbon have been named as replacements for the front row.
Melbourne Rebels’ Attack Coach, Shaun Berne, said:
“It might sound cliché, but this week’s focus has been on our game, focusing on us and what we do well at, and what areas we need to improve on.”
“Having Cameron Orr, Ross Haylett-Petty and Isi Naisarani back in the starting side brings in a lot of experience – they’re much more battle-hardened than some of our younger guys.
“We’re at the pointy-end of the season where you really do need those battle-hardened guys who have that experience in those big games, so hopefully they can bring along the younger guys with that experience.”
In what is the 22nd match between the two fierce Weary Dunlop rivals, Saturday’s Anzac Eve clash shapes as one of the most dramatic in recent memory.
To qualify for an impressive second consecutive finals berth, Melbourne will first need the Queensland Reds to beat the Western Force on Friday night in Perth.
A sixth win over the Waratahs come Saturday would then see the Rebels clinch the third and final spot in the 2021 Harvey Norman Super Rugby AU Finals.
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 Isi Naisarani, 7 Brad Wilkin, 6 Michael Wells, 5 Ross Haylett- Petty, 4 Robert Leota, 3 Cabous Eloff, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Cameron Orr.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Matt Gibbon, 18 Pone Faamausili, 19 Steve Cummins, 20 Richard Hardwick, 21 Joshua Kemeny, 22 Carter Gordon, 23 George Worth
Date: Saturday, April 24
Venue: Western Sydney Stadium, Parramatta
Kick-off: 19.45 (09.45 GMT)
Referee: Nic Berry
Assistant referees: Amy Perrett, Brett Cronan
TMO: James Leckie