Toomua takes centre stage for Rebels
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: James Tuttle will emerge from the Super Rugby wilderness on Friday, after Melbourne Rebels coach Dave Wessels named him in the matchday 23 to tackle the Brumbies.
It has been 845 days since the scrumhalf last played Super Rugby, following back-to-back ruptured achilles injuries saw him sidelined.
“It’s a great moment for Bobby – the team were really chuffed to see him in there; he got a standing ovation when he was named and also for the medical staff and the athletic performance staff who’ve worked incredibly hard over a long period of time to get him ready,” explained Wessels.
“Bobby is a real team man and has got just real leadership and I think everyone’s just really pleased for him that he’s back in the mix and this is his opportunity now to play some rugby and cement his place in the team.”
The inclusion of Tuttle follows a raft of changes to the backline.
Frank Lomani assumes the starting No.9 jersey in the absence of Louwrens, whilst a midfield combination of Andrew Deegan, Matt To’omua and the returning Campbell Magnay will have their first outing together.
Up front, Matt Philip forces his way back into the pack, partnering with tearaway lock Trevor Hosea.
The back row also takes on a different look, with last week’s try scoring hero Isi Naisarani sharing the load alongside a recalled Josh Kemeny and Brad Wilkin.
Wilkin, like Tuttle, has enjoyed his own injury comeback, returning to the bench last week against the Force in what was his first game of rugby following an ACL recovery.
“Brad’s probably the same – he’s had also a number of significant injuries, but I thought he played really well when he came on and has probably a similar personality to Bobby – he has real leadership potential.
“We don’t want to put too much pressure on Wilko – he’s a big part of our team going forward and I think some exposure to big minutes now is important, particularly as we start to get towards the finals.
“What we don’t want to do is get there and then you’re suddenly playing guys who’ve never had a run or exposure, so we’re trying to balance exposures and performances as we go.”
Rebels: 15 Reece Hodge, 14 Andrew Kellaway, 13 Campbell Magnay, 12 Matt Toomua (captain), 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Andrew Deegan, 9 Frank Lomani, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Brad Wilkin, 6 Josh Kemeny, 5 Trevor Hosea, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Cameron Orr.
Replacements: 16 Efitusi Ma’afu, 17 Cabous Eloff, 18 Pone Fa’amaluli, 19 Michael Stolberg, 20 Richard Hardwick, 21 Rob Leota, 22 James Tuttle, 23 Billy Meakes.
Date: Friday, August 7
Venue: Leichhardt Oval, Sydney
Kick-off: 19.05 (09.05 GMT)
Referee: Graham Cooper
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner & Reuben Keane
TMO: George Ayoub