Perth - Western Force flyhalf Willie Ripia will spend another week on the Super Rugby sidelines after failing to prove he has fully overcome a niggling foot tendon injury.
Ripia, who came over from the Hurricanes at the end of last year, is yet to play for the Force after injuring his foot during the pre-season.
The 25-year-old trained on Thursday but failed to convince the club’s medical staff he would be able to hold up in Saturday night’s clash with Melbourne in Perth.
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‘‘Willie trained well with the team but I felt as though he isn’t quite ready to play 80 minutes of Super Rugby. He isn’t far away,’’ coach Richard Graham said.
Ripia’s absence means James O’Connor will again play at flyhalf, where he has starred this season.
Inside centre Gene Fairbanks returns to the side after missing last week’s loss to the Stormers through injury, while hooker Nathan Charles replaces Ben Whittaker in the run-on side.
15. Cameron Shepherd, 14. Alfie Mafi, 13. Nick Cummins, 12. Gene Fairbanks, 11. David Smith, 10. James O’Connor, 9. Brett Sheehan, 8. Ben McCalman, 7. Matt Hodgson, 6. Richard Brown, 5. Nathan Sharpe (capt), 4. Sam Wykes, 3. Tim Fairbrother, 2. Nathan Charles, 1. Pek Cowan
Substitutes: 16. Ben Whittaker, 17. Kieran Longbottom, 18. Tom Hockings, 19. Tevita Metuisela, 20. James Stannard, 21. Matt Brandon, 22. Pat Dellit
15. Mark Gerrard, 14. Richard Kingi, 13. Lachlan
Mitchell, 12. Stirling Mortlock (captain), 11. Luke Rooney, 10. Danny
Cipriani, 9. Nick Phipps, 8. Gareth Delve, 7. Michael Lipman, 6. Jarrod
Saffy, 5. Kevin O’Neill, 4. Alistair Campbell, 3. Greg Somerville, 2. Ged
Robinson, 1. Nic Henderson
Substitutes: 16. Luke Holmes, 17. Laurie
Weeks, 18. Hugh Pyle, 19. Tim Davidson, 20. Sam Cordingley, 21. Peter
Betham, 22. Afusipa Taumoepeau