Melbourne Rebels Head Coach Dave Wessels has named just two changes to his starting lineup to face the Waratahs in their Round 9 Super Rugby AU blockbuster against the Waratahs in Sydney this Saturday 11:15 am SA time.
Fan favourite Pone Fa’amausili makes way for Wallaby Jermaine Ainsley whilst Michael Wells slides into the XV at the expense of Josh Kemeny.
The changes see a sizeable amount of experience brought back into the run-on side with an additional 100 Super Rugby caps bolstering the Rebels pack.
“I thought Jermaine played really well against the Brumbies and then was unfortunately unavailable because of injury for the Reds,” said Wessels.
“We felt that he’s now fit and played really well against the Brumbies – probably one of the better games I’ve seen him play – so he comes back in at tighthead.
“I think Josh [Kemeny] has played really well, but he’s a young guy and we felt the experience in the back row and the work rate of Wellsy [Michael Wells] would be really good for us.”
Injured skipper Dane Haylett-Petty will have to spend another week on the sidelines, with the medical staff opting to take a cautious approach with the skipper.
“If it was a final, we probably would’ve pushed him (Haylett-Petty) to play.”
“We’re quite happy where the outside backs are – I think Marika is playing quite well; I think Hodgey is playing particularly well at 15.
“I keep reminding Dane, I’m not sure how he’s going to get himself back in the team – he’s going to have to earn that.
“Particularly around Reece Hodge – I’m really pleased about the way Reece Hodge is playing at the moment.”
Whilst not reading too much into the recent history of the two sides, Wessels did acknowledge the two wins the Rebels have enjoyed over the Waratahs in 2020 did make the Round 9 clash an exciting fixture.
“It’s an exciting game,” admitted Wessels. “This comp has gotten better and better - every week it’s getting more and more interesting. “It’s definitely interesting with everything on the line this week.
“These are the games you want to play and be a part of and everyone’s just really excited for that. “With everything that’s happening in Victoria and wanting to play for those people, it’s a real motivator for us."
Rebels: 1. Cameron Orr, 2. Jordan Uelese, 3. Jermaine Ainsley, 4. Matt Philip, 5. Trevor Hosea, 6. Michael Wells, 7. Brad Wilkin, 8. Isi Naisarani, 9. Frank Lomani, 10. Andrew Deegan, 11. Marika Koroibete, 12. Matt To’omua (c), 13. Campbell Magnay, 14. Andrew Kellaway, 15. Reece Hodge. Replacements: 16. Efitusi Maafu, 17. Cabous Eloff, 18. Pone Fa’amausili, 19. Michael Stolberg, 20. Richard Hardwick, 21. James Tuttle, 22. Bill Meakes, 23. Tom Pincus.