Olympic Sevens hopeful Lachie Anderson is set to make his Super Rugby AU debut in Melbourne’s must-win last-round clash with the Western Force in Newcastle on Saturday.
Anderson has been a key part of the Australian Sevens team since 2017 but joined the Rebels program this year when the World Series was cut short and Tokyo Olympics delayed due to the coronavirus.
Named on the Rebels bench, he’s a former teammate of gun Melbourne Storm fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen, with the pair lining up in their school rugby team.
“Lachie has been consistently good in training and he’s genuinely quick,” Melbourne coach Dave Wessels said on Thursday.
“He’s got genuine speed and he’s quite a big body so I think he’s going to develop into a really good outside back for us.”
Among the other changes to the Rebels line-up is the return of injured skipper Dane Haylett-Petty at fullback, forcing sweeping backline changes.
Fellow Wallaby Reece Hodge shifts to outside centre to partner Bill Meakes, with Matt Toomua and James Tuttle the new halves combination and Marika Koroibete and Tom Pincus the wingers.
The Force have their leading tryscorer winger Byron Ralston back after he was rested against the Brumbies with Wallaby hopeful Kyle Godwin returning to outside centre.
“It’s really nice to have Dane’s experience back in the team; he adds a calming voice to the team and we’ve missed him,” said Wessels.
“I thought Reece has played really well at 15 so it wasn’t an easy decision but Campbell Magnay is out so we decided to move Hodgey to 13.”
Bustling prop Pone Fa’amausili is missing from the squad with Wessels saying he tweaked his hamstring at training after putting on a linebreak followed by a chip and chase.
“He was thinking he was Christian Cullen or something,” Wessels said.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 27, 2020
Despite the showboating, the Rebels are deadly serious about what’s at stake – needing to beat the winless Force by four points or more to secure the spot over NSW in the qualifying final against Queensland.
The Brumbies have already advanced to the grand final on September 19.
“We are going to have to play well on Saturday because the Force play with a lot of spirit and they will be wanting to finish the season on a high,” Wessels said.
“There’s no time for excuses now – we’re at the business end of the comp and we feel like if we can put the performance on, and everyone is desperate to do that for all the people of Victoria … we want to do that and win this comp.”
Rebels: Dane Haylett-Petty, Tom Pincus, Reece Hodge, Bill Meakes, Marika Koroibete, Matt Toomua (c), James Tuttle, Isi Naisarani, Richard Hardwick, Michael Wells, Trevor Hosea, Matt Philip, Jermaine Ainsley, Jordan Uelese, Cameron Orr. Reserves: Efitusi Ma’afu, Cabous Eloff, Matt Gibbon, Michael Stolberg, Esei Haangana, Frank Lomani, Andrew Deegan, Lachlan Anderson.
Force: Jack McGregor, Byron Ralston, Kyle Godwin, Henry Taefu, Marcel Brache, Jono Lance, Ian Prior (c), Henry Stowers, Brynard Stander, Fergus Lee-Warner, Ollie Atkins, Jeremy Thrush, Kieran Longbottom, Andrew Ready, Pek Cowan. Reserves: Heath Tessmann, Chris Heiberg, Dominic Hardman, Johan Bardoul, Kane Koteka, Nick Frisby, Nick Jooste, Jake Strachan.
– Melissa Woods
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