Rebels Ready for Crucial Game with Drua in Melbourne

Wed, Apr 3, 2024, 2:38 AM
Rebels Media
by Rebels Media

Melbourne Rebels head Coach Kevin Foote has named his Match Day 23 for the Rebels crucial clash against the Fijian Drua at AAMI Park this Friday Night.

Hoping to bring some energetic Rebels rugby to the travelling Fijian side, Foote has selected a team with strong carrying potential and explosiveness with ball in hand.

Last week’s starting front row of Matt Gibbon, Jordan Uelese, and Sam Talakai will continue their in-form combination, looking to make an early impact and set the tone at set piece. Josh Canham moves back to the starting lock position, with engine room partner Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, who is one of few Super Rugby Players to play every minute of the 2024 season.

The lock has made a huge impact since starting with the side in 2024, leading from the front with strong carries, deft handling of the ball and leadership around the park.

Angelo Smith moves to the starting blind flank, alongside Maciu Nabolakasi with back-to-back starts for the local Melbourne product, making a mark on the jersey he takes so much pride in representing. Tuaiana Taii Tualima will start at the back of the scrum, with the versatile forward making the most of his last two starts in the back row.

Ryan Louwrens will start at scrum half, offering up clean ball for flyhalf Carter Gordon, whose consistent form has allowed the Rebels the ability for multiple options in attack. The pacey Gordon demonstrated he’s not only a ball in hand player, with a try-saving tackle on winger Dylan Pietsch in last week's close matchup with the Waratahs and multiple efforts in defensive sets throughout the game.

David Feliuai and Filipo Daugunu are set to light up the midfield again after their dangerous combination all season keeps defenders on their toes.

Speaking to media this week, Daugunu reflected on his transition to the midfield and his partnership with David Feliuai and Carter Gordon. “I love being involved in defence” he reflected. “That’s where I see my involvement most in midfield. Moving from wing to centre, my main focus was improving my defence and it becoming a big part of my game.” 

Talking about his backline teammates and the combinations they are forming throughout the season, Daugunu spoke about their connection and understanding. “We know how to play alongside each other. They do their thing and I’ll be there in support” he expressed.  

Glen Vaihu moves back to the starting wing, alongside Darby Lancaster whose form has proved he can bring his exciting skill set to all formats of the game. A proven try scorer, Lancaster’s finishing is as impressive as his work in the breakdown and in the contact area, he is sure to excite the home crowd.

Nick Jooste moves to the starting side at fullback, demonstrating his versatility as both a connecting player and midfielder with vision and footwork to match.

The impact for the Rebels is led by the returning Isaac Kailea, with hooker Alex Mafi and powerful tighthead Taniela Tupou looking to push the Drua pack in the later stages of the game.

Once again the potent front row demonstrates the depth at the Rebels, with players pushing one another for selection each week and improving connection as a unit with every game played.

Daniel Maiava and Vaiolini Ekuasi provide support for the remainder of the pack from the bench. Ekausi’s involvement in the second half proved crucial against the Waratahs and brings tempo and energy to the pack when on field.

James Tuttle provides support as the scrumhalf reserve, after managing the tempo well coming on early last week after Louwrens was forced to move to the wing.

The returning Matt Proctor and Mason Gordon round out the Rebels reserves for their clash against the Drua.

The Melbourne Rebels face the Fijian Drua in Round 7 of the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific season, kicking off at 7:35 PM (AEDT), Friday, April 5 at AAMI Park. The match will be shown ad-free, live and on-demand on Stan Sports.

Starting Team

1. Matt Gibbon

2. Jordan Uelese

3. Sam Talakai (c)

4. Josh Canham

5. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto

6. Angelo Smith

7. Maciu Nabolakasi

8. Tuaiana Taii Tualima

9. Ryan Louwrens

10. Carter Gordon

11. Glen Vaihu

12. David Feliuai

13. Filipo Daugunu

14. Darby Lancaster

15. Nick Jooste


16. Alex Mafi

17. Isaac Kailea

18. Taniela Tupou

19. Daniel Maiava

20. Vaiolini Ekuasi

21. James Tuttle

22. Matt Proctor

23. Mason Gordon