Stirzaker returns to lead Rebels
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: The Melbourne Rebels have made five changes to the starting line-up for Saturday's clash with the undefeated Crusaders at AAMI Park in Melbourne.
Rebels head coach Tony McGahan welcomes back captain Nic Stirzaker, Tom English and Sefa Naivalu from injury, while Colby Fainga'a returns to the starting line-up and Lopeti Timani shifted to lock.
Stirzaker will lead the side after an ankle injury sidelined the scrumhalf for four weeks while outside centre English and wing Naivalu missed last week's game against the Waratahs.
Fainga'a will make his first start since Round 10 after a quad injury saw the flank miss the games against the Lions and Reds before a return off the bench against the Waratahs.
"We're all excited at the Rebels with the team selected this week," McGahan said. "To have robust discussions around some positions was welcomed by the coaches."
“We have let ourselves down this season in the final minutes of the first and second halves with basic skill errors and game management so we aim to eliminate those situations against the competition's leaders."
McGahan has named an unchanged front row with Toby Smith, James Hanson and Tyrel Lomax for the second consecutive week.
Reece Hodge and Jackson Garden-Bachop must complete the concussion protocols after the pair suffered head knocks against the Waratahs last weekend.
Jonah Placid has retained his spot on the reserves bench after his two-try performance against the Waratahs, his first outing since Round One, while scrumhalf Ben Meehan and centre Mitch Inman will provide impact off the bench. Hugh Sinclair returns to the line-up after the lock missed the Waratahs game.
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Ben Volavola, 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 Sean McMahon, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Steve Cummins, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 James Hanson, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Fereti Sa'aga, 18 Laurie Weeks, 19 Culum Retallick, 20 Hugh Sinclair, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Mitch Inman, 23 Jonah Placid.
Date: Saturday, May 27
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-off: 19.45 (21.45 NZ time; 09.45 GMT)
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Paul Williams (New Zealand), Damon Murphy (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)