Melbourne - The Rebels have named a new front row in their starting XV for their Super Rugby clash against the Lions in Melbourne on Saturday.
Head coach Tony McGahan has recalled the experienced trio of Toby Smith, James Hanson and Laurie Weeks for the club’s return to AAMI Park to host the Africa 2 Conference leaders.
Smith will make his first start of the season after he returned from a hamstring injury with 30 minutes off the bench against the Kings last weekend.
Hanson and Weeks have been named in the run-on team for the first time since the victory over the Brumbies in Round 8.
McGahan has made a total of six changes to the starting line-up with the inclusion of lock Dominic Day, flanker Hugh Sinclair and scrum-half Ben Meehan.
Sinclair will make his first Super Rugby start after two appearances off the bench on the Rebels tour of South Africa while Meehan returns for his first appearance since the fourth round meeting with the Chiefs.
“Injuries continue to plague our season with Nic (Stirzaker) and Mick (Snowden) added to our growing list of casualties but we’ve got 23 players to make amends for last week’s limp performance against the Kings,” said McGahan.
“We know that we’ve got the experience and skill, we’ve shown it in patches this season against the Chiefs, Waratahs and Brumbies, so we’ve got to back ourselves and throw everything that we’ve got against the Lions on Saturday.”
Rebels U20 vice-captain Harrison Goddard is set to make his Super Rugby debut after being named on the reserves bench following injuries to scrum-halves Stirzaker (ankle: 3-5 weeks) and Snowden (foot: seven months).
Goddard, who was in camp with the Australian U20s on the Gold Coast at the start of the week, was awarded man of the match in Ranwicks’ 26-6 victory over arch-rivals Easts in Sydney’s Shute Shield last weekend.
Fullback Jack Maddocks has overcome a shoulder injury to be included on the reserves bench for the first time since his Super Rugby debut against the Blues in the opening round of the season in February.
The Rebels will host the Lions for just the second time in the club’s history after the visitors claimed a narrow 20-16 victory over the hosts when the two sides last met at AAMI Park in 2015.
It will be the third consecutive week that the Rebels have faced off against South African opposition following a 9-9 draw against the Sharks in Durban and 44-3 loss to the Kings in Port Elizabeth last weekend.
15 Reece Hodge, 14 Sefa Naivalu, 13 Tom English, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Ben Meehan, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Colby Fainga'a (captain), 6 Hugh Sinclair, 5 Dominic Day, 4 Steve Cummins, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 James Hanson, 1 Toby Smith
Substitutes: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Fereti Sa'aga, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Culum Retallick, 20 Will Miller, 21 Harrison Goddard, 22 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 23 Jack Maddocks
15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Sylvian Mahuza, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Lourens Erasmus, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen
Substitutes: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Hencus van Wyk, 19 Ruan Ackermann, 20 Robert Kruger, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Jacques Nel, 23 Anthony Volmink