Melbourne Rebels stand in Captain Angus Cottrell has been ruled out of Friday night’s Australian Conference derby against the NSW Waratahs with concussion, however the side will welcome back three star players and has made six changes to the starting XV.
Hooker Anaru Rangi, winger Jack Maddocks, and lock Matt Philip have all been named to return to the starting side.
Rangi (ankle), Maddocks (knee) and Philip (heal) have all overcome their injuries, which kept the trio sidelined during last week’s loss to the Stormers.
Rounding out the changes to the starting lineup up is another trio of players, with Richard Hardwick, Matt Gibbon and Jermaine Ainsley, replacing Angus Cottrell, Tetera Faulkner and Sam Talakai in first XV positions respectively.
Young back Sione Tuipulotu has also been recalled into the replacements, in what potentially looms as his first match for the Club since Round 7’s win over the Reds.
Along with Cottrell, hooker Robbie Abel, winger Semisi Tupou, and lock Esei Ha’angana have not been selected.
The changes mark a five-three split in the interchange, after a six-two split was implemented last week to combat the Stormers’ strong forward pack.
Melbourne Head Coach Dave Wessels believes the loss of Captain Cottrell can be offset by Wallaby-capped forward Richard Hardwick, who impressed the caching group after his performance off the bench last week.
“Gussy concussed himself in training… so unfortunately he’s not available for selection,” Wessels said.
“We were pleased with Dickie’s (Richard Hardwick’s) contribution at the end of the Stormers game last week, we thought he played really well.
“He’s back to full fitness and we all know he’s a Wallaby, so when he’s on and when he’s hungry like he is at the moment, he can add a lot to the game.”
The Head Coach expects his side to bounce back from a disappointing showing against the Stormers at AAMI Park. One thing which has pleased Wessels this week was his playing group’s ability to put their hand up and set the tone for improving their game throughout the week.
“I think we weren’t ourselves last week at all, I could tell in the warm up, but certainly the first passage of play,” Wessels said.
“We stole their lineout and I could just tell, we weren’t doing the things we normally want to do.
“The nice thing about our group is we were prepared to admit that.
“We’ve got be the best version of what we want to be and the disappointing thing about our performance is it just wasn’t us.”
With rectifying Round 9’s performance in mind,
Wessels has stated that the Melburnians will look to be more physical against the Waratahs on Friday night.
And the Head Coach says while he may not expect perfection, he will be expecting intensity.
“We’re certainly not going to be underwhelming in the contact area that’s for sure,” Wessels said.
“I’m ok to play well and be beaten by a better team if that happens, but I get very frustrated when we don’t play well ourselves.
“I don’t think we’re going to be perfect, I don’t expect us to be perfect, but I expect us to do the things we want to do really well and with intensity.
Rebels Match Day 23 v Waratahs, Saturday 20 April, kick off 7:45pm (EST)
Ins: Anaru Rangi, Jack Maddocks, Sione Tuipulotu, Matt Philip
Outs: Robbie Abel, Semisi Tupou, Esei Ha’angana, Angus Cottrell
1. Matt Gibbon
2. Anaru Rangi
3. Jermaine Ainsley
4. Matt Philip
5. Adam Coleman
6. Luke Jones
7. Richard Hardwick
8. Isi Naisarani
9. Will Genia
10. Quade Cooper
11. Marika Koroibete
12. Billy Meakes
13. Tom English (c)
14. Jack Maddocks
15. Reece Hodge
16. Hugh Roach
17. Tetera Faulkner
18. Sam Talakai
19. Ross Haylett-Petty
20. Rob Leota
21. Michael Ruru
22. Campbell Magnay
23. Sione Tuipulotu