The Melbourne Rebels will welcome back Isi Naisarani, Luke Jones and Anaru Rangi to the starting XV, while recruit Matt To'omua will line up for his first Rebels start at inside centre ahead of the Club's clash with the Waratahs.
With the news of his re-signing to the Club until 2021 announced this week, the Rebels have been further buoyed by Naisarani’s return from a toe injury to re-take his place at number eight.
Rebels stalwart Luke Jones will also return to his blindside flanker after recovery from a fractured cheekbone, while Anaru Rangi has been ushered back into the team after being rested in the Rebels’ 45-point win over the Sunwolves.
Matt To’omua will gain his first ever Rebels start, after replacing Billy Meakes at inside centre.
In further changes to the starting XV, props Tetera Faulkner and Jermaine Ainsley will start ahead of fellow front rowers Matt Gibbon and Sam Talakai, while hooker Hugh Roach will return to the bench following the inclusion of Rangi.
Promising young flanker Rob Leota, experienced lock Sam Jeffries and Wallaby hooker Jordan Uelese have been the unlucky omissions in what looms as one of the most competitive Rebels sides announced this the season.
Melbourne Head Coach Dave Wessels says while he’s excited to welcome back an array of players, Wessels also admits that there were some tough decisions at the selection table.
“It’s great to have those guys back in the side, but it wasn’t an easy decision,” Wessels said.
“I think the decision was made around the short turn around, so it’s obviously a fair flight to Japan and (it’s also a) six-day turnaround, so we made a fair few changes in the pack to get the freshest bodies on there.”
Wessels has also allayed Rebels fans’ fears, confirming that star scrum half Will Genia is fit to face the Waratahs after sustaining a knock to the head against the Sunwolves.
The Head Coach says Genia will take his spot in the starting XV after passing all the necessary concussion protocols.
“I got a good feeling from Will straight after the game, because he passed his HIA (Head Injury Assessment) straight away, which is always a pretty good sign,” Wessels said.
“Head injuries are a serious one, so we’re very much guided by the medical staff because there’s very strict protocols that have to be followed and tests and things that have to be passed, so we’re delighted for Will that he’s passed all of those things.”
Melbourne Rebels Match Day 23 v Waratahs, Friday 31 May, kick off 7:45pm (EST)
Ins: Isi Naisarani, Luke Jones, Anaru Rangi
Outs: Jordan Uelese, Sam Jeffries, Rob Leota
1. Tetera Faulkner
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. Matt To'omua
13. Reece Hodge
14. Jack Maddocks
15. Dane Haylett-Petty (c)
16. Hugh Roach
17. Matt Gibbon
18. Sam Talakai
19. Ross Haylett-Petty
20. Angus Cottrell
21. Michael Ruru
22. Billy Meakes
23. Tom English