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Where: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
When: 08.35 (GMT)
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Melbourne Rebels head coach Tony McGahan has made two changes to the team that lost to the Crusaders for this week’s match against the Waratahs at Allianz Stadium in Sydney.
Foundation Rebel Lachlan Mitchell will become the first Rebel to play fifty times for competitive matches for the Club, a combination of 49 Super Rugby appearances and his match against the British and Irish Lions, while Mitch Inman will make his 50th Super Rugby appearance following nineteen appearances for the Western Force before moving to Melbourne.
Jason Woodward (knee) and Laurie Weeks (concussion) are the casualties from last round, presenting starting opportunities to Angus Roberts (fullback) and Paul Alo-Emile (tighthead prop).
For the first time in Super Rugby history, the Rebels have named two Japanese players in their matchday squad, with centre Male Sau joining compatriot Shota Horie on the Rebels’ interchange.
Tom Kingston also returns to the matchday 23, replacing Telusa Veainu on the interchange, while prop Cruze Ah-Nau is in contention to make his Super Rugby debut after being selected as a reserve.
While Woodward and Weeks miss this week, McGahan dispelled any doubts about their long-term fitness, and expects them to be back in contention shortly.
Waratahs coach Michael Cheika has made four changes to the team that lost to the Brumbies for this week’s Super Rugby clash with the Melbourne Rebels at Allianz Stadium.
Cheika has named Sekope Kepu to start at loosehead prop and NSW’s biggest ever player, Will Skelton, returns at lock, pushing Jacques Potgieter to flanker and Dave Dennis to No. 8.
Benn Robinson slips back to the bench to allow Wallaby prop Kepu his first run on start of 2014 for this week’s Weary Dunlop Shield match.
“I just wanted to try this combination, I thinks Keps has played well and was unlucky to miss out in the first place. He’s done what he needs to do to force his way back in the side,” said Cheika. Kepu isn’t about to let his coach down, promising. “I’ll leave no stone unturned to get it right.”
He packs down alongside Paddy Ryan and hooker Tatafu Polota Nau, who’ll become the sixth most capped NSW player in history, when he takes to the field on Friday night.
In the reshuffled pack, Skelton will join the durable Kane Douglas at lock, whilst the back row will comprise blindside flanker Potgieter, Michael Hooper, who earns his 50th Super Rugby cap at openside, and skipper Dave Dennis at No. 8.
If he comes on from the bench, Wycliff Palu will earn his 99th NSW state cap against Melbourne.