Rebels forced to suffle the backs
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Rebels coach Tony McGahan made eight changes to the matchday 23 for the penultimate round of the 2017 Super Rugby season.
The Rebels face the Western Force on Friday.
Scotish-native Murray Douglas will make his first Super Rugby start after being named at lock for his second Rebels appearance following his debut in Round four against the Chiefs at AAMI Park.
Prop Laurie Weeks, flyhalf Jackson Garden-Bachop and fullback Jonah Placid return to the starting line-up after the trio came off the bench against the Brumbies before the international break.
A season ending injury to wing Sefa Naivalu in the Wallabies final Test against Italy has forced McGahan to shuffle the backline with Reece Hodge to partner Mitch Inman in the centres, while Tom English has been moved to the wing and Placid to fullback for his first start 2017.
"There’s no harder Australian roadtrip than to Perth, but the players are hungry after three weeks of training to return to some competitive football on Friday and finish the remaining two games of the season on a positive note," McGahan said.
"The injury to Sefa has forced some movement across our backline but these 23 players have impressed the coaching staff over the last few weeks and deserve their opportunity to start on Friday against the Force,"
Australian Under-20 representatives Jordan Uelese and Sione Tuipulotu return to the reserves bench, while Jack Maddocks has overcome a wrist injury that forced the rising star to miss the 2017 World U20 Championship in Georgia.
Three Victorians have been named in the team with young prop Fereti Sa’aga, fresh off signing a two-year contract extension with the club, to join Uelese and Tuipulotu on the bench for the final away game of the season.
Friday’s fixture will be the first meeting of the season between the Western Force and Melbourne Rebels.
Little has separated the two sides in the history of rivalry with 11 of the 12 previous fixtures ending in a margin of a converted try of less.
The Rebels made a clean sweep of the two fixtures last season against the Force with a 25-19 win in Perth in Round one followed by a 22-17 win in Round 14 in Melbourne.
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Jonah Placid, 14 Tom English, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 Nic Stirzaker (captain), 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Lopeti Timani, 5 Steve Cummins, 4 Murray Douglas, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 James Hanson, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Cruze Ah Nau, 18 Fereti Sa’aga, 19 Culum Retallick, 20 Hugh Sinclair, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Sione Tuipulotu, 23 Jack Maddocks
Date: Friday, July 7
Venue: nib Stadium, Perth
Kick-off: 17.45 (11.45 GMT)
Referee: William Houston (Australia)
Assistant referees: Graham Cooper (Australia), Damon Murphy (Australia)
TMO: Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)