The Melbourne Rebels have made nine changes for Sunday’s game against the Waratahs at Allianz Stadium in Sydney.
Lopeti Timani returns from his four-game suspension and Sean McMahon will make his first start of the season after the reigning Super Rugby player of the year returned to action off the bench last weekend against the Reds.
The Wallabies pair will partner Japanese international Amanaki Mafi in the Rebels backrow while prop Tyrel Lomax and lock Culum Retallick have been recalled to the starting line-up after Dominic Day failed to overcome an injury.
“We’re all excited to get Sean (McMahon) and Lopeti (Timani) back into the starting line-up and we’re looking forward to seeing them play with Amanaki (Mafi) in a dynamic backrow for us,” McGahan said.
“It’s been a lot time coming to have the three of them fit and available for selection together but it’s a brand new combination so we’re conscious combinations may be lacking but certainly not the physicality.”
Injuries to Sefa Naivalu and Tom English has forced a reshuffle of the backline with Marika Koroibete the only back to retain his position.
Jackson Garden-Bachop will partner Ben Meehan in the halves, stand-in captain Reece Hodge and Mitch Inman will combine in the centres, Jack Maddocks named on the wing and Ben Volavola will start at fullback.
It will be Maddock’s first start since his Super Rugby debut in Round 1 against the Blues after a shoulder injury sidelined the 20-year-old for 12 weeks.
McGahan has included 18-year-old lock Esei Haangana, who became the Rebels youngest ever debutant when he came off the bench against the Lions, has been included on the reserves bench.
Colby Fainga’a has overcome a quad injury while Sione Tuipulotu has returned from Australian U20s camp to provide injury cover and Jonah Placid is set to make his first appearance since Round 1 off the bench.
It will be the second meeting between the two sides this season after the Waratahs scored four unanswered tries to come from behind to beat the Rebels on fulltime and reclaim the Weary Dunlop Shield with a 32-25 win at AAMI Park.
The Rebels return to Allianz Stadium for the first time since their history victory over the Waratahs in Sydney last season.
Rebels: 15 Ben Volavola, 14 Jack Maddocks, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Reece Hodge (c), 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 Ben Meehan, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Sean McMahon, 6 Lopeti Timani, 5 Steve Cummins, 4 Culum Retallick, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 James Hanson, 1 Toby Smith
Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Fereti Sa’aga, 18 Laurie Weeks, 19 Esei Haangana, 20 Colby Fainga’a, 21 Harrison Goddard, 22 Sione Tuipulotu, 23 Jonah Placid
Date: Sunday, May 21
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Kick-Off: 16:05 local (6:05 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant Referees: Graham Cooper, Amy Perrett
TMO: George Ayoub