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Mafi excited to take on Japanese compatriots

By Online Editors

Wallabies Dane Haylett-Petty, Sefa Naivalu, Ben Daley and Jordan Uelese are all included as the Melbourne Rebels prepare to host the Sunwolves at AAMI Park on Friday.

Haylett-Petty will start at fullback after he suffered a bulged disc in his neck against the Bulls in Pretoria a month ago. Uelese is set to return off the bench after injuring his arm in the same game.

In the forwards, Matt Philip swaps into the second row in place of Geoff Parling.

Reece Hodge will start at five-eighth, Billy Meakes in the centres and Jack Maddocks on the wing – rounding out the changes to the starting line-up from the team that beat the Brumbies a fortnight ago.

Uncapped prop, Pone Fa’amausili and flyhalf, Tayler Adams, are also in-line to earn Super Rugby debuts from the bench.

Melbourne Rebels Head Coach, Dave Wessels said “we’ve picked a side with a nice balance of youth and experience. It’s good to have Dane back in the starting XV – he’s a real leader in the group and everyone will take confidence from having him around.

“It should a great game. The Sunwolves played some fantastic attacking rugby to beat the Stormers and Reds in the last two weeks, so we know they’re arriving Melbourne full of confidence.

“Most of all, we’re excited to be returning in front of our home fans at the Stockade (AAMI Park). It’s a critical game for us, so we’re looking forward to putting on a display that Melbourne people can be proud of.”

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Rebels number eight Amanaki Mafi says he is “really excited” to face a number of Japanese internationals.

Mafi has made 19 appearances for Japan’s national side, including at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, and has played alongside several Sunwolves squad members.

There is one player in particular that Mafi is most looking forward to taking on.

“I [am] looking [forward] to playing against Michael Leitch,” Mafi said.

“[However there is] a lot of excitement to face them. You know them well for a long time.

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“They know your strength; they know your weaknesses.”

REBELS

1. Fereti Sa’aga, 2. Anaru Rangi, 3. Sam Talakai, 4. Matt Philip, 5. Adam Coleman (C), 6. Angus Cottrell, 7. Colby Fainga’a, 8. Amanaki Mafi, 9. Michael Ruru, 10. Reece Hodge, 11. Marika Koroibete, 12. Billy Meakes, 13. Tom English, 14. Jack Maddocks, 15. Dane Haylett-Petty.
Reserves: 16. Jordan Uelese, 17. Ben Daley, 18. Pone Fa’amausili, 19. Geoff Parling, 20. Lopeti Timani, 21. Harrison Goddard, 22. Tayler Adams, 23. Sefa Naivalu.

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