Rebels head coach Tony McGahan has made just one change to his starting line-up Saturday’s derby with the Reds in Melbourne.
Flanker Jordy Reid has been recalled to the Rebels run-on team for the side’s first home game of the season after coming off the bench to spark a second-half revival in the 45-25 loss to the Bulls last weekend.
The Rebels four-try second half came after Reid’s introduction, which included an instrumental run from the 24-year-old own the right touchline to set up scrumhalf Ben Meehan’s second try.
Adam Thomson, one of four former Reds in the Rebels’ 23-player squad, returns to the number eight jersey while Lopeti Timani has been named in the second row.
Sean McMahan will again lead the Rebels for a third consecutive week with captain Nic Stirzaker unavailable for selection as he continues his recovery from an off-season shoulder reconstruction.
The quad injury to Reece Hodge, sidelined for four-five weeks, has opened the door for Japanese international Kotaro Matsushima on the reserves bench, alongside Pat Leafa, Cruze Ah-Nau, Jamie Hagan, Sam Jeffries, Steve Cummins, Mick Snowden and Dan Hawkins.
Matsushima, who made his Super Rugby debut after getting a late call-up following the injury to Hodge at training on the eve of second round clash against the Bulls in Pretoria, will come up against compatriot Ayumu Goromaru.
“Injuries have played an unfortunately role early this season but we’ve got great depth in our squad and have complete confidence in our side’s ability to step up and take the opportunity,” said McGahan.
After starting their season on the road with an opening round victory over the Western Force in Perth and a second round 20-point loss to the Bulls last weekend, the Rebels return home for the first time this season.
The Rebels and Reds have split the last four fixtures, which included a 23-15 for the Rebels when the two sides last met at AAMI Park in Round 8 last year.
“A local derby is always exciting and there’s certainly no shortage of motivation for either the Rebels or Reds coming into this game,” McGahan said.
“After two big weeks on the road, it’s great to be back playing at AAMI Park tonight in front of the Rebels faithful, family and friends for the first time this season.”
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Jonah Placid, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Tom English, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Ben Meehan, 8 Adam Thomson, 7 Sean McMahon (c), 6 Jordy Reid, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 James Hanson, 1 Toby Smith
Replacements: 16 Pat Leafa, 17 Cruze Ah Nau, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Sam Jeffries, 20 Steve Cummins, 21 Mick Snowden, 22 Dan Hawkins, 23 Kotaro Matsushima
Date: Saturday, March 12
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-off: 19:40 local (08:40 GMT)
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant Referees: Graham Cooper, Ed Martin
TMO: Peter Marshall