Rebels unchanged for first Aussie derby
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Melbourne Rebels coach Tony McGahan named an unchanged starting line-up for the first time in 27 games.
McFagam also named an extended bench, with one player to be omitted, for the franchise's first Australian derby of the year - against the Waratahs in Melbourne on Friday.
Four changes have been made to the nine-player bench - with the inclusion of Wallaby Lopeti Timani and uncapped Welsh international Dominic Day, along with the return of centre Mitch Inman and prop Tom Moloney.
"The starting line-up showed character and fight against the Chiefs last week so they're all deserving of the opportunity to get another crack from kick-off," McGahan said.
"It's great that we can include some experience for Friday's game against the Waratahs with Lopeti and Dom to provide some much-needed depth and quality from the bench when called upon."
The Rebels welcome back Timani after a knee injury sidelined the second row forward for the franchise's fourth round game against the Chiefs last Friday while Day, capped three times for Wales, is expected to make his Super Rugby debut.
The lock has 92 appearances for Welsh professional franchise Scarlets (Pro12) before he joined Bath in 2012 where he played 110 games in the England Premiership followed by a move to Japan with Toyota Verblitz (Top League) in 2016.
Inman is set to return from injury for his second games of the season while Moloney has been recalled after appearing off the bench in the opening two games of the year against the Blues and Hurricanes.
The Melbourne Rebels will defend the Weary Dunlop Shield on Friday after they reclaimed the trophy courtesy of a history 21-17 maiden victory over the Waratahs in Sydney when the two sides last met in 2016.
Friday's game will be the Rebels 50th Super Rugby home game at AAMI Park, six years, one month and seven days since the franchise kicked off their inaugural season against the Waratahs on 18 February 2011.
Hooker James Hanson will record his 100th Super Rugby appearance since his debut in 2010 against the Crusaders.
The 28-year-old played 82 games for the Queensland Reds, which includes the 2011 Super Rugby championship, before he joined the Rebels in 2016.
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Jack Debreczeni, 14 Sefa Naivalu, 13 Tom English, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 Nic Stirzaker (captain), 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Colby Fainga'a, 6 Jordy Reid, 5 Steve Cummins, 4 Culum Retallick, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 James Hanson, 1 Fereti Sa'aga.
Replacements - from: Pat Leafa, Tom Moloney, Tyrel Lomax, Dominic Day, Lopeti Timani, Jake Schatz, Ben Meehan, Mitch Inman, Ben Volavola.
Date: Friday, March 24
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-off: 19.45p AEDT (08.45 GMT)
Referee: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Jordan Way (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)