Rebels wing Cooper Vuna will make his return from suspension via the bench in Saturday's Super Rugby clash with the Force in Perth.
Melbourne Rebels wing Cooper Vuna will make his return from suspension via the bench in Saturday's Super Rugby clash with the Western Force in Perth.
Vuna was banned for one match following his punch-up with team-mate Kurtley Beale on the team's recent tour of South Africa.
Looking to avoid six defeats on the trot, under fire coach Damien Hill has made several changes to his side, including naming Scott Higginbotham as the fourth captain in the Rebels' short history.
Higginbotham will lead the side following the withdrawal of regular skipper Gareth Delve, who will miss the match due to minor issues with his ribs and shoulder.
Lock Cadeyrn Neville and former Force centre Rory Sidey both get an opportunity in the run-on side, with the latter replacing the injured Lachlan Mitchell.
After missing last week's match against the Cheetahs, Scott Fuglistaller has returned to the starting line-up at the expense of Jordy Reid.
The Rebels have won four of the previous five encounters against the Western Force, with the highest ever margin being nine points.
“We have the advantage on the win sheet, but this match means so much for both teams,” said Hill.
“The players feel as though they need to record a win for their city on this three-match tour, while the Force were desperately unlucky against the Waratahs, and the local support in Perth is very supportive of their rugby team.
“We know what derby matches can bring out in this competition.”
Hill also endorsed the decision of Higginbotham as captain for this round's match, saying the leadership role is something that will fit comfortably with the Wallaby flanker.
“Scott will bring a different level of energy to the team's on field leadership. He plays with a level of passion that will be infectious to his peers. He leads by example,” said Hill.
Rebels: 15 James O'Connor, 14 Jason Woodward, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Rory Sidey, 11 Richard Kingi, 10 Angus Roberts, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Luke Jones, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson.
Replacements: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Laurie Weeks, 18 Jarrod Saffy, 19 Jordy Reid, 20 Nic Stirzaker, 21 Tom English, 22 Cooper Vuna.
Date: Saturday, 6 April
Venue: nib Stadium, Perth
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffman (Australia), James Leckie (Australia)
Television match official: Matt Goddard (Australia)