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Woodward back for Rebels

26th March 2014 23:02

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Rebels full back Jason Woodward held

Starts: Jason Woodward

Rebels head coach Tony McGahan has made six changes to his starting line-up that will take on the Brumbies.

A new look front-row sees Max Lahiff replace Toby Smith as loosehead prop, with Smith ruled out for a week with concussion. Laurie Weeks, on the other hand, returns from a head knock as the starting tighthead, with Pat Leafa at hooker.

McGahan, while disappointed to see Smith ruled out, was excited to see what Lahiff could deliver in his first start on home soil in Melbourne.

"Unfortunately Toby's head knock on the weekend was pretty bad, and he didn't return to the game after going off," head coach McGahan said.

"He's still recovering and we're following the concussion protocols, but hopefully he will be fine for next week.

"Max had a really good pre-season and is adjusting to the speed of Super Rugby. We're looking for him to provide a big contribution early on against a good Brumbies front-row."

The second-row remains unchanged, while a straight swap sees Colby Fainga'a injected into the starting line-up against his former club with Sean McMahon moving to the bench.

"Colby has been training very well all pre-season, and he is really keen to show his wares," McGahan said.

"He has had a strong contribution this week into what we are hoping to achieve on Friday. We didn't select him just because we're playing against his old side; we have a plan on where we will use players during the course of a hectic eight week block. Sean has played really well, but this week Colby gets the opportunity."

Nic Stirzaker, who this week committed to the club until the end of the 2015 season, has returned from an ankle injury and replaces Ben Meehan in the squad, with Luke Burgess relegated to the reserves.

"Nic has worked hard, and it's unfortunate that we have been denied his presence thus far. He has trained strongly for two weeks, had some good game time on the weekend in the Dewar Shield and now he comes in to help us with our mindset and our general play in attack.

"Luke has been at the forefront of our halves combo for all of our games this year, including the trial matches, and he has invested a lot physically and emotionally. We're looking for a new voice and we are really conscious of how we want to finish the game this week; certainly Luke brings great experience to the back end of the match."

Jason Woodward has overcome a bruised knee to return after missing one week and is named to start as fullback, while Tom Kingston will start after a knee injury bought a premature end to Foundation Rebel Lachlan Mitchell's season.

McGahan is not concerned that the Brumbies are yet to name their team, and instead is focused on improving results for the Rebels in the midst of a very tough eight week schedule without a bye.

"To be fair, we have been too engrossed on what we are trying to deliver this weekend to worry about who they are going to name," he said.

"They've got plenty of internationals, a couple of really strong players missing with injury but a couple of internationals likely to come back in as well. What we are about is looking after ourselves; obviously we look at the opposition, but the breadth of what we are trying to do is about what we can control ourselves.

"It's an absolute positive that we get to test ourselves against the best sides in the competition. The next four weeks will give us a really good indication of where we are at individually, and collectively as a group. We have a great opportunity for the group to show off their belief in each other and their spirit, and we're looking forward to seeing that on show starting this Friday night against a very well coached and player-led group from Canberra."

Rebels: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Tom Kingston, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Tom English, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Nic Stirzaker, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Colby Fainga'a, 5 Luke Jones, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Max Lahiff.
Replacements: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Paul Alo-Emilie, 18 Cruze Ah-Nau, 19 Cadeyrn Neville, 20 Sean McMahon, 21 Luke Burgess, 22 Male Sa'u, 23 Angus Roberts.

Date: Friday, March 28
Kick-off: 19:40 local (08:40 GMT)
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Andrew Lees (Australia), James Leckie (Australia)
Television match official: Peter Marshall (Australia)

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