Cape Town - Melbourne Rebels welcome back Lopeti Timani from a head knock for Saturday night’s game against the Brumbies at GIO Stadium in Canberra.
Rebels head coach Tony McGahan has made five changes to the starting line-up with the return of Timani, Hugh Sinclair and Mitch Inman, while Ben Volavola and Reece Hodge have shifted positions in the backline.
Timani has passed the concussion protocols after the loose forward missed last weekend’s game following a head knock at training while Sinclair will fill the shoes of injured Sean McMahon at flanker. McMahon is expected to miss six to eight weeks after dislocating his wrist against the Crusaders.
For the third consecutive week, McGahan has named an unchanged frontrow with Toby Smith, one of five Rebels named in the Wallabies squad on Tuesday, hooker James Hanson and Tyrel Lomax retaining their spots.
Volavola has been named at fly-half for his seventh start of the season which sees Hodge shifted to full-back and Inman recalled to inside centre.
“The Brumbies physicality and strong set piece has provided them the foundation for a consistent season and they deserve their place at the top of the Australian Conference going into the Test break,” McGahan said.
“For us, this game presents an opportunity to knock off the conference leaders for a second time this season and show what this side is capable of without a year of off-field distractions and inconsistent selection.”
McGahan has made two changes to the reserves bench. Cruze Ah-Nau returns to the Rebels for the first time since Round 4 after returning from a knee injury via the local Dewar Shield premier competition while backrower Will Miller has been recalled following the injury to McMahon.
The Rebels claimed their first victory of the year with a 19-17 win over the Brumbies when the two sides met earlier this season in Round 8 at AAMI Park.
The Brumbies extended their lead atop of the Australian Conference ladder to 19 points over the second-placed Waratahs following victories over the Kings and Jaguares on their tour of South Africa and Argentina.
The Rebels secured their first ever victory in the national capital with a 13-8 win over the Brumbies during their last time to Canberra in Round 10, 2015.
Saturday’s game will be the Rebels final hitout before the month-long international break which will see Smith, Timani, Hodge, Sefa Nailvalu and Marika Koroibete (Wallabies), Volavola (Fiji) and Amanaki Mafi (Japan) report for national duty.
15 Tom Banks, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Aidan Toua, 10 Wharenui Hawera, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Jordan Smiler, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter (captain), 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Josh Mann-Rea, 1 Nic Mayhew
Substitutes: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Faalelei Sione, 18 Leslie Leulua'iali'i-Makin, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Jarrad Butler, 21 De Wet Roos, 22 Andrew Muirhead, 23 Nigel Ah Wong
15 Reece Hodge, 14 Sefa Naivalu, 13 Tom English, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Nic Stirzaker (captain), 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Hugh Sinclair, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Steve Cummins, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 James Hanson, 1 Toby Smith
Substitutes: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Cruze Ah-Nau, 18 Laurie Weeks, 19 Culum Retallick, 20 Will Miller, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 23 Jonah Placid