Rebels Super rugby head coach Dave Wessels has rewarded his chargers for their victory over the table topping ACT Brumbies last week and named a near unchanged lineup for Saturdays clash against the QLD Reds.
Prop Pone Fa’amausili is the only new face in the starting XV, coming in for Jermaine Ainsley at prop.
Melbourne Rebels vice-captain Michael Wells and emerging lock Esei Haangana have also been recalled to the match day squad, sliding onto the bench in place of Michael Stolberg and Rob Leota.
At outside centre, former QLD Red Campbell Magnay will lock horns with former Rebel and Victorian junior Hunter Paisami in a midfield battle that will feature as a key matchup.
Unsurprisingly though, it’s the reinstated prop Pone Fa’amausili, who created headlines during the Rebels Round 2 match against the Reds, that will draw the most attention.
His battle against Taniela Tupou will be a battle of two of the most exciting big men in Australian rugby.
“He’s definitely a point of difference for us,” said Wessels about the 133kg Fa’amausili.
“He’s still a young guy and good performances come on the back of good preparation, so I’m not stressing too much on his performance.
“We’re pushing hard for him to get his preparation right and that he’s diligent during the week with everything he should be doing, and he’s been great.”
Should he see minutes off the bench, Charles Abel will become the Rebels 17th debutant in 2020 and be welcomed into the family as Rebel 161.
“Charlie is the brother of Robbie Abel, who was with us in the past and is now with the Waratahs, so we know the family pretty well.
“But he’s got some rugby league in his background and has recently comeback to rugby and I think he’ll surprise a lot of people.
“He’s not well known but he’s really made an impression with us.”
The round seven clash presents a unique opportunity for the Melbourne men; a potential fourth straight victory would set a new club record.
Furthermore, with the table topping ACT Brumbies enjoying the BYE this week, a victory will see the Rebels jump to top of the ladder.
“We were pleased with our performance last week and as I said after the game, we never get too up and never get too down.
“We’ve got to reproduce that, and I’m pleased we’ve got some momentum going into the finals, which is the way you want to do it, but Saturday will be a totally different contest and the Reds will be right up for it.
“If we get the win, then we’ll be top of the comp and I’d be really proud of the guys under very difficult circumstances – we’ve played every game away in this comp and we’re missing a lot of established players that have been part of our group for a long time.
“So, the fact we are still able to perform well and are building up to some good performances, is something to be really proud of.”
15 Reece Hodge, 14 Andrew Kellaway, 13 Campbell Magnay, 12 Matt To’omua (captain), 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Andrew Deegan, 9 Frank Lomani, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Brad Wilkin, 6 Josh Kemeny, 5 Trevor Hosea, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Pone Fa’amausili, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Cameron Orr
Replacements: 16 Efitusi Maafu, 17 Cabous Eloff, 18 Charles Abel, 19 Esei Ha’angana, 20 Michael Wells, 21 Richard Hardwick, 22 James Tuttle, 23 Billy Meakes