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Hardwick and Leota start for Rebels against Bulls

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Melbourne Rebels loose forwards Richard Hardwick and Rob Leota have been promoted to the side’s Starting XV to battle the Bulls at AAMI Park this Friday.

Hardwick, who came off the bench in last week’s big win over the Reds, has been elevated to the number seven jersey, while Leota will step up to the number eight jersey.

Star recruit Matt To’omua could potentially make his long-awaited Rebels debut, starting as a replacement after being released a week early by English Club Leicester.

It could be To’omua’s first Super Rugby game since he played 88 games for the Brumbies between 2008-2016.

He will be joined by Sam Jeffries who will return to the side to bolster the forward stocks, finishing off a 5-3 split on the bench.

Luke Jones and Isi Naisarani were the two players left out of the side, after both suffered a fractured eye socket and a foot injury respectively in last Friday’s victory over the Reds.

In better news for the team, Quade Cooper has been cleared to play following a nasty incident where the number 10 was concussed by a knee to the head form Reds skipper Samu Kerevi.

Melbourne Head Coach Dave Wessels says Cooper is raring to go against an inform Bulls side after being cleared by medical professionals.

“He’s fine, he pulled up straight away after the game and was feeling fine, he followed the concussion pathway and passed all of those markers, so he’s feeling good,” Wessels said.

With star forwards Jones and Naisarani ruled out, Wessels has backed in forwards Rob Leota and Richard Hardwick to fill the void against a strong Bulls forward pack.

“We’re lucky we’ve got some depth in the back five of the scrum,” Wessels said.

“Rob Leota, obviously everyone knows how well he’s been playing, so it’s great to have him in the mix. “

We’re fortunate to have Dickie (Richard Hardwick) who’s a Wallaby, we’ve missed having a specialist flanker who plays to the ball, so that’s a part of our game that Dickie will really help with.”

Rebels

15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Handré Pollard (captain), 9 André Warner, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Lizo Gqoboka

Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Divan Rossouw

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