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Rebels make one change for Highlanders

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The Rebels have named a team with one change to to play the Highlanders at AAMI Park on Saturday as James Hanson returns to the starting line up.

James Hanson’s return to the starting line-up at hooker for Pat Leafa is the only change to the starting XV but there are changes on the bench.

Fullback Reece Hodge has overcome injury and comes on to the replacments bench to replace Sione Tuipulotu.

The 21-year-old proved his fitness on Thursday after being sidelined since suffering a quad injury at training on the eve of the Rebels second round meeting with the Bulls in Pretoria.

“We understand the quality of the Highlanders so we need to make sure we’re at our best so to have Nic (Stirzaker), Scott (Fuglistaller) and Reece (Hodge) all back fit will provides us with quality and experience to call upon off the bench during the game,” Rebels Head Coach Tony McGahan said.

Hodge scored the most points on debut by a Rebels player and equaled the club record for points in a match away from home when he scored two tries and 20 points against the Western Force in the opening round of the 2016 Super Rugby season.

Nic Stirzaker and Scott Fuglistaller successfully returned from injuries as second-half substitutions against the Sunwolves last weekend and will again provide an option off the bench for McGahan.

The Rebels 23-player team features three former Highlanders with Fuglistaller, Adam Thomson and Tamati Ellison all playing under coach Joseph Jamie during their Super Rugby careers.

The Rebels, who sit second on the Australian Conference ladder following victories over the Force, Reds and Sunwolves, faces their biggest test of the season against the competition’s defending championships.

“The Highlanders have been impressive so far this season, they’ve continued to improve after last year’s championship and set a high benchmark in Super Rugby across all facets,” McGahan said.

Melbourne’s only victory in four outings against the Highlanders came when the two sides last met at AAMI Park in 2013. The hosts came back from 24 points down at half-time to secure a thrilling 38-37 victory in the final round.

Rebels

1. Toby Smith , 2. James Hanson , 3. Laurie Weeks , 4. Luke Jones , 5. Lopeti Timani , 6. Jordy Reid , 7. Sean McMahon (captain) , 8. Adam Thomson , 9. Ben Meehan , 10. Jack Debreczeni , 11. Tom English , 12. Mitch Inman , 13. Tamati Ellison , 14. Dom Shipperley , 15. Jonah Placid

Replacements : 16. Pat Leafa , 17. Cruze Ah Nau , 18. Jamie Hagan , 19. Sam Jeffries , 20. Scott Fuglistaller , 21. Nic Stirzaker , 22. Dan Hawkins , 23. Reece Hodge

 

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