The Melbourne Rebels will be looking to consolidate their spot in the top eight in this week’s clash with the Blues in Round 12 of the Super Rugby Pacific competition.
Chasing their second consecutive win since the Trans-Tasman crossover, the Rebels travel to Eden Park for the first time since 2018’s memorable 20-10 win.
The Rebels have made several adjustments to Friday night’s match day 23 in what will be the Club’s first game on New Zealand soil in 349 days.
Matt Gibbon and Pone Fa'amausili have been promoted to the starting line-up and will join forces with James Hanson in the front row.
Friday night’s encounter marks the 50th Super Rugby match Hanson has played in Rebels’ colours after debuting for the Club back in 2016.
The thirty-three-year-old enters his milestone match in red hot form after scoring two crucial first half tries in the Rebels’ thrilling 26-22 win over Moana Pasifika last Saturday.
With Skipper Michael Wells recovering from a concussion, Wallabies’ star Matt Philip has been named to Captain the Rebels for the first time this season.
Phillip will pair with Josh Canham in the second row, with the versatile Rob Leota shifting to No.8, alongside Richard Hardwick and Brad Wilkin in the back row.
Carter Gordon has a new partner at the halves with the experienced Joe Powell replacing James Tuttle, while Lukas Ripley has been named for histhird start of his young career, replacing Rya Nu’u who’s unavailable through suspension.
Ripley is one two Junior Wallabies to be selected in this week’s team, with Victorian Daniel Maiava selected for his second Super Rugby match in his debut season, replacing Josh Hill, who’s absent through sickness.
The exciting youngster joins Tamati Ionae, Cabous Eloff, Cameron Orr and Efi Ma’afu as forward cover, while Moses Sorovi has been selected for his second match in the Rebels’ jersey, in what is the twenty-six-year-old’s 39th career match.
Sorovi joins Nick Jooste and Glen Vaihu in rounding out the Rebels’ match day 23.
Melbourne Rebels Head Coach Kevin Foote said his side was raring to go for Friday night’s challenge.
“Our squad is excited to be getting back on the road and playing in New Zealand for the first time in almost twelve-months,” said Foote.
“It’s been a special two-weeks for our Club hosting Super Round and then Pasifika Round last week at home, but we’re really excited to travel to Auckland together and test ourselves against an in-form opposition on their home deck, in front of their fans.
“We’re giving Michael Wells another week to recover from his head knock, which means Matt Philip will step in as Captain, which is exciting for him, and I have no doubt he’ll do great on Friday night.
“With a short turnaround and travel, we have really come into the week with a great focus and energy to be better, so we’re excited for this week’s challenge and the opportunity for more growth.”
The Melbourne Rebels will face the Blues in Auckland on Friday night, May 6 at 5:05 PM (AEST). Stan Sports will broadcast the clash ad-free, live and on-demand.