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Fainga’a returns for Rebels to face Cheetahs

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Melbourne Rebels head coach Tony McGahan has made five changes to his team for this weekend’s Super Rugby match against the Cheetahs at AAMI Park, Melbourne.

The return of Colby Fainga’a from injury is one of five changes. There are four straight changes and one positional in the line up.

Fainga’a will make his Super Rugby return via the replacements bench bench after an elbow injury had sidelined the flanker since the Rebels’ opening round victory over the Western Force in Perth eight weeks ago.

Head Coach Tony McGahan has made four changes to the run-on side that lost to the Hurricanes last weekend with Toby Smith, returning from a concussion suffered against the Waratahs, and Jonah Placid named at full back for the first time since the Highlanders in Round Five.

Reece Hodge will make his first start at Outside Centre after all four of his Super Rugby appearances have come at full back while Sefa Naivalu, who got through his first full game since returning from a broken leg, and Cam Crawford swap wings.

Victorian home-grown centre Sione Tuipulotu, last week named in the Australian U20’s squad, and Japanese international Kotaro Matsushima have been recalled to the team with the pair to start on the reserve bench against the Cheetahs.

Tuipulotu has been named in the team for the first time since he made his Super Rugby debut against the Reds in Round Three while Matsushima’s only appearance for the Rebels came in Round Two against the #Bulls.

“With Dom Shipperley and Mitch Inman unavailable for selection due to injury, we’ve been forced to make a few changes this weekend against the #Cheetahs, which isn’t great for continuity, but I’m looking forward to the young backs playing well,” McGahan said.

“Our depth has been tested a few times already this year with various injuries but those players coming in have always stepped up and taken the challenge head on so I’m expecting nothing less again this weekend.”

The Rebels have beaten the Cheetahs once in their previous four meetings with the victory coming when the two sides last meet at AAMI Park in Round 3, 2014.

Along with the 35-14 victory, the game will be remembered for the debuts of Tamati Ellison, Sean McMahon, Toby Smith, Ben Meehan, Colby Fainga’a and Cruze Ah Nau in club colours.

Rebels

1. Toby Smith , 2. James Hanson , 3. Laurie Weeks , 4. Luke Jones , 5. Lopeti Timani , 6. Jordy Reid , 7. Sean McMahon , 8. Adam Thomson , 9. Nic Stirzaker (captain) , 10. Jack Debreczeni , 11. Sefa Naivalu , 12. Tamati Ellison , 13. Reece Hodge , 14. Cam Crawford , 15. Jonah Placid

Replacements : 16. Pat Leafa , 17. Cruze Ah Nau , 18. Jamie Hagan , 19. Sam Jeffries , 20. Colby Fainga’a , 21. Ben Meehan , 22. Kotaro Matsushima , 23. Sione Tuipulotu

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