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Rebels make eight changes for the Western Force

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Melbourne Rebels Super Rugby head coach Tony McGahan has named a team with eight changes to the 23-man team to play the Western Force at nib Stadium in Perth on Friday.

Scotish-native Murray Douglas will make his first Super Rugby start after being named at lock for his second Rebels appearance following his debut in Round 4 against the Chiefs at AAMI Park.

Prop Laurie Weeks, fly-half Jackson Garden-Bachop and fullback Jonah Placid return to the starting line-up after the trio came off the bench against the Brumbies before the international break.

A season ending injury to winger Sefa Naivalu in the Wallabies final Test against Italy has forced McGahan to shuffle the backline with Reece Hodge to partner Mitch Inman in the centres, while Tom English has been moved to the wing and Placid to fullback for his first start 2017.

“There’s no harder Australian roadtrip than to Perth, but the players are hungry after three weeks of training to return to some competitive football on Friday and finish the remaining two games of the season on a positive note,” McGahan said.

“The injury to Sefa has forced some movement across our backline but these 23 players have impressed the coaching staff over the last few weeks and deserve their opportunity to start on Friday night against the Force.”

Australian U20s representatives Jordan Uelese and Sione Tuipulotu return to the reserves bench, while Jack Maddocks has overcome a wrist injury that forced the rising star to miss the 2017 World Rugby U20s Championship in Georgia.

Three Victorians have been named in the team with young prop Fereti Sa’aga, fresh off signing a two-year contract extension with the club, to join Uelese and Tuipulotu on the bench for the final away game of the season.

Friday’s fixture will be the first meeting of the season between the Western Force and Melbourne Rebels.

Little has separated the two sides in the history of rivalry with 11 of the 12 previous fixtures ending in a margin of a converted try of less.

The Rebels made a clean sweep of the two fixtures last season against the Force with a 25-19 win in Perth in Round 1 followed by a 22-17 win in Round 14 in Melbourne.

Melbourne Rebels

1. Toby Smith , 2. James Hanson , 3. Laurie Weeks , 4. Murray Douglas , 5. Steve Cummins , 6. Lopeti Timani , 7. Colby Fainga’a , 8. Amanaki Mafi , 9. Nic Stirzaker (Captain) , 10. Jackson Garden-Bachop , 11. Marika Koroibete , 12. Reece Hodge , 13. Mitch Inman , 14. Tom English , 15. Jonah Placid

Replacements : 16. Jordan Uelese , 17. Cruze Ah Nau , 18. Fereti Sa’aga , 19. Culum Retallick , 20. Hugh Sinclair , 21. Ben Meehan , 22. Sione Tuipulotu , 23. Jack Maddocks

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