The Rebels’ Super Rugby side has named four changes to their starting XV, with the majority of changes signalled for the Club’s forward pack.
Prop Matt Gibbon, hooker Robbie Abel and flanker Rob Leota have all been named to make their first starts for the Rebels.
Adam Coleman will make his first start at lock for 2019, with Luke Jones to begin the game in the reserves, while number eight Ross Haylett-Petty has also been named on the bench and is in line to potentially come on the ground for his first Cap of the year.
Melbourne Rebels Head Coach Dave Wessels says the amount of changes to the Club’s forward pack mainly came down to managing the side ahead of two consecutive months of matches.
However, Wessels maintained that players wanting to crack into the match day 23 would still need to earn their way into the side through strong form.
“In order to win Super Rugby, you need a good squad and there’s been guys who have trained and competed in the last couple of weeks who deserve a go,” Wessels said.
“Anybody who’s not at full capacity, we shouldn’t be putting in there just based on reputation.
“We need to be smart, we’ve got a run of eight games continuously, so we need to have the fresher players available all the time.”
The competition for spots in the side was a key factor in the decision to not promote Reece Hodge to a starting position in what is an unchanged Rebels backline.
Wessels says while Hodge has not put a foot wrong in his comeback, his position on the bench was due to the strong performances from the two players already occupying the centre positions.
“It’s probably just a reflection of Tom English and Billy Meakes doing a good job for us in the midfield,” Wessels said.
“Reece is the ultimate professional and we do everything we ask of him, but we want payers to feel that they have to warrant their performances at all time, so Hodgey is doing everything in his power but the other guys are working hard to keep their spots too.”
Wessels pointed to starting prop Matt Gibbon’s feel good story as an example of the hard work required to earn a first XV spot.
The Head Coach says Gibbon’s persistence and team-first mantra is why the 23-year-old has found himself in the number one jersey.
“Matt Gibbon is a great story, because he came over in the preseason with no contract and fought his way through in preseason and did a number of things which impressed me,” Wessels said.
“There was a moment which impressed me where he was a loosehead and we needed a tighthead in a drill pre-Christmas.
“We asked him if he could do it and most people would flinch at that, but Matt didn’t bat an eyelid and that was an indication for me that he was prepared to do whatever the team needed of him.”
Melbourne Rebels Super Rugby match day 23 v Brumbies
1. Matt Gibbon
2. Robbie Abel
3. Sam Talakai
4. Matt Philip
5. Adam Coleman
6. Rob Leota
7. Brad Wilkin
8. Isi Naisarani
9. Will Genia
10. Quade Cooper
11. Marika Koroibete
12. Billy Meakes
13. Tom English
14. Jack Maddocks
15. Dane Haylett-Petty
16. Anaru Rangi
17. Tetera Faulkner
18. Jermaine Ainsley
19. Luke Jones
20. Ross Haylett-Petty
21. Richard Hardwick
22. Michael Ruru
23. Reece Hodge