Rebels head coach Tony McGahan has named Jamie Hagan to make his Super Rugby starting debut in the team to play the Blues at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday.
Hagan comes into the starting team at Tighthead Prop for Laurie Weeks who is injured after suffering a hamstring injury at training on Tuesday.
The change in the front row is the only change to the starting team that beat the Cheetahs 36-14 last weekend.
Hagan has made six appearances off the bench this season after he joined the Rebels in 2016.
Tim Metcher, named on the reserves bench, has been recalled into the team for the first time this season after two appearances last season.
“Laurie (Weeks) did a hamstring at the end of training on Tuesday so unfortunately he’s out for a period of time and certainly won’t play before the beginning of June,” McGahan said.
“It’s nice and easy for us, we bring in Jamie Hagan into the starting side, he’s been gathering time off the bench and going really well so he’s pretty excited to be an Irishman starting a Super Rugby game and Tim Metcher comes onto the bench.” ,
Reece Hodge will remain at Outside Centre after scoring tries on either side of half-time against the Cheetahs last weekend – his second double of the season in five appearances.
Rebels flanker Colby Fainga’a will start on the reserves bench for a second week after a successful return to Super Rugby against the Cheetahs following eight weeks on the sideline with an elbow injury suffered in the first round.
The Rebels, who take on the Blues for just the second time at Eden Park, are searching for their first win in Auckland following losses at North Harbour Stadium in Round 10, 2011 (23-40) and at Eden Park in Round 13, 2013 (32-36).
The two sides have split the four previous Super Rugby meetings with the home side winning on each occasion.
The Rebels equalled the club’s record for most points in a game when they down the Blues 44-22 when the teams last met in a Super Rugby game at AAMI Park in Round 13, 2015.
Earlier this year, the Blues ran in nine tries to one when they defeated the Rebels 59-7 in a pre-season trial in Auckland.
“We’re under no illusion of the challenge we face against a really good side that towelled us up in a pre-season trial match earlier this year so we need nothing less than our best 80-minute performance on Saturday,” McGahan said.
Along with a maiden victory in Auckland, the Rebels are chasing a piece of club history with a fourth win on the road to set a new team record for away victories in a single season.
1. Toby Smith , 2. James Hanson , 3. Jamie Hagan , 4. Luke Jones , 5. Lopeti Timani , 6. Jordy Reid , 7. Sean McMahon , 8. Adam Thomson , 9. Nic Stirzaker (captain) , 10. Jack Debreczeni , 11. Cam Crawford , 12. Tamati Ellison , 13. Reece Hodge , 14. Sefa Naivalu , 15. Jonah Placid
Replacements : 16. Pat Leafa , 17. Cruze Ah Nau , 18. Tim Metcher , 19. Sam Jeffries , 20. Colby Fainga’a , 21. Ben Meehan , 22. Kotaro Matsushima , 23. Sione Tuipulotu