The Melbourne Rebels are set to welcome back a host of key players for their massive Australian Conference match against the Queensland Reds on Saturday night.
Winger Marika Koroibete, lock Adam Coleman, No 8 Isi Naisarani and scrumhalf Will Genia have all been named to return to the starting XV after spending a week on the sidelines resting under the Wallabies’ rotation policy.
Victorian Sione Tuipulotu will return the bench after starting against the Sharks last week, while forward Ross Haylett-Petty, flanker Richard Hardwick and prop Pone Fa’amausili have been omitted from the side.
One other change has been slated for the starting side, with Tetera Faulkner returning to prop, in place of front rower Matt Gibbon.
Young lock Esei Ha’angana and prop Jermaine Ainsley have been brought into the replacements at the expense of the injured Brad Wilkin and debutant flyhalf Stu Dunbar.
Within the starting XV, the Rebels have flagged changes to their back half, with a reshuffle to the backline seeing Reece Hodge switch with winger Jack Maddocks to fullback.
Melbourne Head Coach David Wessels says shifting Maddocks back to the wing came down to getting Hodge around the ball more.
“He’s (Hodge) a great player and we want to get his hands on the ball as much as we can,” Wessels said.
“He’ll be more comfortable coming in…and working at first receiver this weekend.”
Ahead of their first Australian Conference match since Round 4, the Rebels will look to rectify the two losses they suffered to the Lions and the Sharks on their South African tour.
Wessels says Melbourne has focussed on bettering themselves at training to ensure they return to the form which saw the side start the season with three consecutive victories.
“I think the thing is we were disappointed with our performance against the Sharks,” he said.
“What we’ve tried to do this season is to be the best version of ourselves every week and for a variety of reasons we weren’t that last week, so hopefully that’s our one for the season, but we’re very keen to play well again this weekend.”
Standing in the way of the Rebels is a fired-up Reds side who will look continue their red-hot form after a comprehensive home victory over the Brumbies last weekend.
Wessels says his side will have to combat the numerous positional threats Queensland possess, while also focussing on producing Melbourne’s trademark quick ball movement.
“I think the Reds are a good team all round, they’ve got good balance between their backs and forwards,” Wessels said.
“What’s going to win the game is our intensity and the speed at which we are able to play at.
“If we can do that like we’ve done all season, then I think we give ourselves a real chance.”
Rebels Match Day 23 v Reds, Saturday 30 March, kick off 8:45pm (EDT)
Ins: Marika Koroibete, Will Genia, Adam Coleman, Isi Naisarani, Jermaine Ainsley, Esei Ha’angana
Outs: Ross Haylett-Petty, Brad Wilkin, Pone Fa’amausili, Stu Dunbar, Richard Hardwick, Harrison Goddard
1. Tetera Faulkner
2. Anaru Rangi
3. Sam Talakai (Vice Captain)
4. Matt Philip
5. Adam Coleman
6. Luke Jones
7. Angus Cottrell (Captain)
8. Isi Naisarani
9. Will Genia
10. Quade Cooper
11. Marika Koroibete
12. Billy Meakes
13. Tom English
14. Jack Maddocks
15. Reece Hodge
16. Robbie Abel
17. Matt Gibbon
18. Jermaine Ainsley
19. Esei Ha’angana
20. Rob Leota
21. Michael Ruru
22. Campbell Magnay
23. Sione Tuipulotu