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Rebels make five changes for Crusaders

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Rebels Super Rugby head coach Tony McGahan has named a Super Rugby team with five changes to the starting line up for this weekend’s match against the Crusaders in Melbourne.

McGahan welcomes back captain Nic Stirzaker, Tom English and Sefa Naivalu from injury, while Colby Fainga’a returns to the starting line-up and Lopeti Timani shifted to lock.

Stirzaker will lead the side after an ankle injury sidelined the scrumhalf for four weeks while outside centre English and winger Naivalu missed last week’s game against the Waratahs.

Fainga’a will make his first start since Round 10 after a quad injury saw the flanker miss the games against the Lions and Reds before a return off the bench against the Waratahs.

“We’re all excited at the Rebels with the team selected this week,” McGahan said. “To have robust discussions around some positions was welcomed by the coaches.”

“We have let ourselves down this season in the final minutes of the first and second halves with basic skill errors and game management so we aim to eliminate those situations against the competition’s leaders.”

McGahan has named an unchanged front row with Toby Smith, James Hanson and Tyrel Lomax for the second consecutive week.

Reece Hodge and Jackson Garden-Bachop must complete the concussion protocols after the pair suffered head knocks against the Waratahs last weekend.

Jonah Placid has retained his spot on the reserves bench after his two-try performance against the Waratahs, his first outing since Round 1, while scrumhalf Ben Meehan and centre Mitch Inman will provide impact off the bench. Hugh Sinclair returns to the line-up after the lock missed the Waratahs game.

The Rebels will host the Crusaders at AAMI Park for the first time in three years and just the second time in the club’s history.

The Rebels claimed a 28-19 victory when the two sides first met in Round 12, 2012 before the visitors responded with a 25-19 win in Round 5, 2014.

The Crusaders remain the only undefeated team in the 2017 Super Rugby season following their 31-24 victory over the Chiefs in Fiji last weekend.

Melbourne Rebels

1. Toby Smith ,2. James Hanson,3. Tyrel Lomax,4. Steve Cummins,5. Lopeti Timani,6. Sean McMahon,7. Colby Fainga’a,8. Amanaki Mafi,9. Nic Stirzaker (Captain),10. Jackson Garden-Bachop,11. Marika Koroibete,12. Reece Hodge,13. Tom English,14. Sefa Naivalu,15. Ben Volavola

Replacements : 16. Siliva Siliva,17. Fereti Sa’aga,18. Laurie Weeks,19. Culum Retallick,20. Hugh Sinclair,21. Ben Meehan,22. Mitch Inman,23. Jonah Placid

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