Two-time tournament winning prop Toby Smith has been named in the Rebels starting XV for Saturday's clash with the Reds in Brisbane.
Two-time Super Rugby winning prop Toby Smith has been named in the Rebels starting XV for Saturday's clash with the Reds in Brisbane.
Smith has missed the past two weeks with a shoulder injury, but has recovered to replace Cruze Ah-Nau in the run-on side to go head to head with an experienced Reds front row group which includes four Wallabies and a former Rebel in Jono Owen. Ah-Nau drops to the bench after impressing in his first two career starts.
“Playing the Reds in Brisbane, where they have an outstanding record, bringing somebody like Toby with his wonderful experience back into the group is fantastic,” Rebels head coach Tony McGahan told the Melbourne-based franchise's official website.
“Cruze has been terrific for the last few weeks, but Toby has been in good form there before his injury so he slots back in on the back of that.”
Japanese internationals Male Sau and Shota Horie departed for Rugby World Cup Qualifiers last weekend, and are also replaced in the team.
Sau's place on the right wing is taken by Tom Kingston, with Telusa Veainu added to the squad, while Samoa international Steve Fualau replaces Horie as back-up hooker.
“Shota and Male have both made great progress here since coming into the program very late, and that's been evident in how they have been improving every week and contributing to the team effort; they'll both be missed,” said McGahan.
“It gives opportunity for Steve Fualau, who was involved in the early rounds, and he is really looking forward to coming back in and testing himself at Super Rugby level.
“It also provides an opportunity for Tom Kingston to start, after working so hard behind the scenes on his game, and Telusa is also keen to get game time after a frustrating season so far with injury.”
In the final change to the squad, young fly-half/full-back Jack Debreczeni has a chance to make his Super Rugby debut. The pivot has overcome injury setbacks in his first season of professional rugby, but has played three straight club games to be elevated to the bench.
“One of our intentions this year is to look at the group, and work out who can handle Super Rugby,” added McGahan.
“Jack hasn't had that opportunity because of injury, but he has worked his back through strong training and Club Rugby form. Now represents a great time to see what he can contribute and we're all keen to see him do well.”
The Reds lost to the Crusaders at home and Sunday, and will be looking to bounce back in front of their home crowd and ensure that they remain the only Australian team the Rebels have never beaten in Super Rugby.
The Rebels did taste victory at Ballymore this pre-season, however McGahan believes this game represents a completely different challenge.
“It seems like such a long time ago (pre-season) for both teams, but we'll take a few elements out of it. We know we can travel and get a positive result on the road, and we're playing basically the same side we came up against in February,” he said.
“We recognise what a good side the Reds are with Wallaby players and leaders scattered throughout their team, and being at home is somewhere the Reds love playing.
“We look forward to the opportunity of challenging them; we think we've played some good football on the road recently and are looking forward to the game this weekend.”
Rebels: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Tom Kingston, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Tom English, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Colby Fainga'a, 5 Luke Jones, 4 Cadeyrn Neville, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Steve Fualau, 17 Cruze Ah-Nau, 18 Paul Alo-Emilie, 19 Hugh Pyle, 20. Sean McMahon, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Jack Debreczeni, 23 Telusa Veainu.
Date: Saturday 17 May
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 19.40 local (09.40 GMT)
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Matt O'Brien (Australia), Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)
Television match official: Steve Leszczynski (Australia)