Melbourne - The Melbourne Rebels have kept the faith with their starting XV, naming only one change to the squad which defeated the Reds by 19 points.
Jermaine Ainsley has been selected at tighthead prop, replacing Vice Captain Sam Talakai, who has been rested for Saturday’s match against the Sunwolves.
Kick-off for the clash in Melbourne is scheduled for 10:45 (SA time).
Four changes have been made among the replacements, with Pone Fa’amausili, Semisi Tupou and Ross Haylett-Petty all in line to gain minutes, while new recruit Hugh Roach could potentially make his franchise debut after 41 appearances with the Waratahs.
Rebels coach Dave Wessels says the addition of Wallaby-capped Ainsley to the starting side is well deserved after the prop’s hard work during the season.
“I think Jermaine has really deserved his chance,” Wessels told the Rebels’ official website.
“He was actually going to start in one of the previous games but got some gastro and was ruled out of the game.”
Wessels’ excitement towards Ainsley’s promotion to the stating XV was also prevalent when speaking about Victorian product Pone Fa’amausili and his return to the replacements.
The coach believes Fa’amausili has the ability to provide real competition for the tight head role spot, with Wessels saying the 22-year-old has the potential to be a big part of the franchise’s forward pack in the future.
“We’ve got some real competition for that position now, with guys like Pone Fa’amausili, who played earlier in the season,” Wessels said.
“He’s only a young guy, but he’s going to be a big part of our club going forward, so I’m looking forward to seeing his performance off the bench as well.
With the Rebels sitting top of the Australian Conference heading into Saturday fixture against the Sunwolves, Wessels is adamant the Japanese side are better than what their 2-5 ledger suggests.
With that belief in mind, Wessels says he the Club has put their best possible side forward in a game which could help Melbourne further solidify their standing in the Australian Conference.
“The Sunwolves are a very good side,” Wessels said.
“They’re obviously well coached and look at the quality in their back row.
“It’s a huge challenge for us, so we’ve put, what we’ve considered to be our best team at the present time on the field.”
15 Reece Hodge, 14
Jack Maddocks, 13 Tom English, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10
Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Angus Cottrell (captain),
6 Luke Jones, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2
Anaru Rangi, 1 Tetera Faulkner
Substitutes: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Matt
Gibbon, 18 Pone Fa’amausili, 19 Ross Haylett-Petty, 20 Rob Leota, 21
Michael Ruru, 22 Campbell Magnay, 23 Semisi Tupou
Ryohei Yamanaka, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Jason Emery, 12
Harumichi Tatekawa, 11 Semisi Masirewa, 10 Hayden Parker, 9 Keito
Shigeno, 8 Hendrik Tui, 7 Dan Pryor (captain), 6 Ben Gunter, 5 Luke
Thompson, 4 Mark Abbott, 3 Jiwon Koo, 2 Jaba Bregavadze, 1 Pauliasi
Substitutes: 16 Nathan Vella, 17 Masataka Mikami, 18 Hiroshi
Yamashita, 19 Uwe Helu, 20 Grant Hattingh, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Takuya
Yamasawa, 23 Josh Timu