Rebels reveal new front row for Lions
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: The Melbourne Rebels have named a new front row for Saturday's Super Rugby Round 11 encounter with the Lions.
Rebels coach Tony McGahan has recalled the experienced trio of Toby Smith, James Hanson and Laurie Weeks for the franchise's return to Melbourne to host the Africa Two Conference leaders.
Smith will make his first start of the season after he returned from a hamstring injury with 40 minutes off the bench against the Kings last weekend.
Hanson and Weeks have been named in the run-on team for the first time since the victory over the Brumbies in Round Eight.
McGahan has made a total of six changes to the starting line-up with the inclusion of lock Dominic Day, flank Hugh Sinclair and scrumhalf Ben Meehan.
Sinclair will make his first career Super Rugby start after two appearances off the bench on the Rebels tour of South Africa, while Meehan returns for his first appearance since the fourth round meeting with the Chiefs.
"Injuries continue to plague our season with Nic [Stirzaker] and Mick [Snowden] added to our growing list of casualties, but we've got 23 players to make amends for last week's limp performance against the Kings," McGahan said.
"We know that we've got the experience and skill, we've shown it in patches this season against the Chiefs, Waratahs and Brumbies, so we've got to back ourselves and throw everything that we've got against the Lions on Saturday."
Rebels Under-20 vice-captain Harrison Goddard is set to make his Super Rugby debut after being named on the reserves bench following injuries to scrumhalves Stirzaker (ankle, sidelined for three to five weeks) and Snowden (foot, seven months).
Goddard, who was in camp with the Australian U20 team on the Gold Coast at the start of the week, was awarded man of the match in Randwick's 26-6 victory over arch rivals Easts in Sydney's Shute Shield last weekend.
Fullback Jack Maddocks has overcome a shoulder injury to be included on the reserves bench for the first time since his Super Rugby debut against the Blues in the opening round of the season in February.
The Rebels will host the Lions for just the second time in the franchise's history after the visitors claimed a narrow 20-16 victory over the hosts when the two sides last met at AAMI Park in 2015.
It will be the third consecutive week that the Rebels have faced off against South African opposition following a 9-all draw against the Sharks in Durban and 3-44 loss to the Kings in Port Elizabeth last weekend.
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Reece Hodge, 14 Sefa Naivalu, 13 Tom English, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Ben Meehan, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Colby Fainga'a (captain), 6 Hugh Sinclair, 5 Dominic Day, 4 Steve Cummins, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 James Hanson, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Fereti Sa'aga, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Culum Retallick, 20 Will Miller, 21 Harrison Goddard, 22 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 23 Jack Maddocks.
Date: Saturday, May 6
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-off: 15.00 (07.00 SA time; 05.00 GMT)
Referee: Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
Assistant referees: Ed Martin (Australia), James Leckie (Australia)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)