Rebels shuffle backline for Brumbies
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: The Melbourne Rebels have made three change to the starting line-up for their second Australian derby of the season against the Brumbies at AAMI Park in Melbourne on Saturday.
Rebels head coach Tony McGahan welcomes back Sefa Naivalu from injury while the forwards have been bolstered by international experience with the return of Lopeti Timani to the starting line-up and Dom Day named for his run-on debut.
Naivalu passed a fitness test for his injured shoulder, which sidelined the wing for the Highlanders game before the bye, and will team up with compatriot Marika Koroibete on the wings for just the second time this season.
Timani will make his first start for the Rebels since Round Two after a calf injury saw the Wallaby miss the side's home games against the Chiefs and Waratahs before a return to action off the bench against the Highlanders.
Welsh international Day will make his run-on Super Rugby debut alongside Timani in the locks after his first two appearances have come off the bench against the Waratah and Highlanders.
McGahan has reshuffled the team's backline with Nic Stirzaker and Jack Debreczeni to resume their partnership at scrumhalf and flyhalf for the first time season while utility Reece Hodge will fill the vacancy at fullback, Tom English returns to the centres with Mitch Inman.
"It's always great to welcome back experience to the starting line-up, but it's particularly welcomed ahead of an important Australian derby against the Brumbies," McGahan said.
"The bye week was a timely opportunity to reset so we've comeback from the break and got a lot of really good work done to address some particular facets to our game and give us the best chance against a quality opposition."
The Rebels have named uncapped Hugh Sinclair on the reserves bench after the loose forward put his Shute Shield campaign on hold to join the club earlier this week as a short-term recruit to help cover an injury depleted squad.
Sinclair, vice-captain of Northern Suburbs, was named man of the match in last year's 28-15 grand final victory over Sydney University after the loose forward played a key role in the game-winning try.
Laurie Weeks, the only remaining foundation player with the Rebels, will celebrate his 100th Super Rugby appearance on Saturday after 23 games with the Reds before he moved south as the team's first ever signing in 2011.
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Reece Hodge, 14 Sefa Naivalu, 13 Tom English, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Nic Stirzaker (captain), 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Colby Fainga'a, 6 Lopeti Timani, 5 Dominic Day, 4 Steve Cummins, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 James Hanson, 1 Fereti Sa'aga.
Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Tom Moloney, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Culum Retallick, 20 Hugh Sinclair, 21 Mick Snowden, 22 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 23 Ben Volavola.
Date: Saturday, April 15
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-off: 19.45 (09.45 GMT)
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand), Rohan Hoffmann (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)