Melbourne Rebels loose forwards Richard Hardwick and Rob Leota have been promoted to the side’s Starting XV to battle the Bulls at AAMI Park this Friday night.
Hardwick, who came off the bench in last week’s big win over the Reds, has been elevated to the number seven jersey, while Leota will step up to the number eight jersey.
Star recruit Matt To’omua could potentially make his long-awaited Rebels debut, starting as a replacement after being released a week early by English Club Leicester.
It could be To’omua’s first Super Rugby game since he played 88 games for the Brumbies between 2008-2016.
He will be joined by Sam Jeffries who will return to the side to bolster the forward stocks, finishing off a 5-3 split on the bench.
Luke Jones and Isi Naisarani were the two players left out of the side, after both suffered a fractured eye socket and a foot injury respectively in last Friday’s victory over the Reds.
In better news for the team, Quade Cooper has been cleared to play following a nasty incident where the number 10 was concussed by a knee to the head form Reds skipper Samu Kerevi.
Melbourne Head Coach Dave Wessels says Cooper is raring to go against an inform Bulls side after being cleared by medical professionals.
“He’s fine, he pulled up straight away after the game and was feeling fine, he followed the concussion pathway and passed all of those markers, so he’s feeling good,” Wessels said.
With star forwards Jones and Naisarani ruled out, Wessels has backed in forwards Rob Leota and Richard Hardwick to fill the void against a strong Bulls forward pack.
“We’re lucky we’ve got some depth in the back five of the scrum,” Wessels said.
“Rob Leota, obviously everyone knows how well he’s been playing, so it’s great to have him in the mix. “
We’re fortunate to have Dickie (Richard Hardwick) who’s a Wallaby, we’ve missed having a specialist flanker who plays to the ball, so that’s a part of our game that Dickie will really help with.”
Rebels Match Day 23 v Bulls, Friday 17 May, kick off 7:45pm (EST)
Ins: Matt To’omua, Sam Jeffries
Outs: Luke Jones, Isi Naisarani
1. Tetera Faulkner
2. Anaru Rangi
3. Jermaine Ainsley
4. Ross Haylett-Petty*
5. Matt Philip
6. Angus Cottrell
7. Richard Hardwick
8. Rob Leota
9. Will Genia
10. Quade Cooper
11. Marika Koroibete
12. Billy Meakes
13. Reece Hodge
14. Jack Maddocks
15. Dane Haylett-Petty (c)
16. Hugh Roach
17. Matt Gibbon
18. Sam Talakai
19. Sam Jeffries
20. Pone Fa’amausili
21. Michael Ruru
22. Campbell Magnay
23. Matt To’omua