The Rebels have made three changes for Sunday's Super Rugby match against the Crusaders at AMI Stadium in Christchurch.
The Rebels have made three changes for Sunday's Super Rugby showdown against the Crusaders at AMI Stadium.
Jarrod Saffy and rookie Tom English have both been promoted to the run-on side, while back-row forward Gareth Delve returns to the bench.
It is a timely return for Delve, who has fully recovered from a series of minor injuries over the past month. He will no doubt be called upon.
Having not been in the 22 in Round 6, Saffy has forced his way into the starting line-up after some industrious play off the bench, and as a clear standout through the Rebel Rising program. He will replace Luke Jones who has been named on the reserves bench.
With a knee injury all but ending Richard Kingi's season, Jason Woodward will move to full-back, with Tom English getting his first opportunity to start in the vacated wing position.
The former Waverly College student failed to get on the field for the majority of 2012, courtesy of an injury suffered playing for the Australian Sevens side. English now finds himself in the starting team to face arguably the greatest Super Rugby club in the competition's history.
For English, this is a chance to repay the faith shown by the Rebels coaches for giving him the initial opportunity, and now his first ever professional start.
“It has been a long road back form injury and the journey is one I have learnt a lot from,” he said.
“I was given a chance in late 2012 with an EPS contract. They showed an enormous amount of faith in me from the beginning, having signed me while I was still injured and requiring surgery. I want to ensure that I play well for the Club for that reason.
“I grew up watching the Crusaders and have always enjoyed the Rugby they play. This season they have been very unlucky with some of their results, but they command the ultimate respect, and we will apply ourselves accordingly.”
It is a similar story for Saffy, who saw very little Rugby in 2012, however a consistent string of matches sees him play his way back into form and his favoured number 6 jersey.
He gave much of the credit of his return to the medical staff at the Melbourne Rebels.
“The physios and high performance department have been fantastic in my recovery and I owe them a lot. I feel as though I am in the best physical shape I have ever been in,” said Saffy
“I would obviously love to be always starting, but it is important to ensure you support your team no matter where you are placed. That is not only my ethos, but the team's as well.”
Last time these two met in Melbourne, the Rebels had their most historic win, beating the seven-time champion Crusaders 28-19 at AAMI Park. While Saffy did not play in the match, he remembers the win and always said that next time would be an even greater challenge.
“We are playing in the toughest provincial competition in the world and the Crusaders are the benchmark,” he added.
“They (the Crusaders) will remember what happened last time we played. However, this is a new team, with a new challenge and one I know we will be up for.”
Rebels: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Tom English, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Rory Sidey, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 James O'Connor, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Jarrod Saffy, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson.
Replacements: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Paul Alo-Emile, 18 Luke Jones, 19 Gareth Delve, 20 Nic Stirzaker, 21 Angus Roberts, 22 Lachlan Mitchell.
Date: Sunday, April 28
Kick-off: 16:05 local (05:05 BST, 04:05 GMT)
Venue: AMI Stadium
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand), Kane McBride (New Zealand)
Television match official: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)