Two of Australia’s brightest young stars will be on display this weekend, with Rob Valetini and Semisi Tupou earning starting nods for their respective sides.
Christian Lealiifano, Lachlan McCaffrey and Valetini return to bolster the Brumbies team to face the Rebels, as four changes are made to Dan McKellar’s starting side.
Lealiifano slots into inside centre pairing with Tevita Kuridrani, while Valetini packs down at for the first time since February.
The 19-year-old Junior Wallabies representative is joined in the back row by flanker Lachlan McCaffrey, the experienced forward having recovered from an elbow injury that kept him out of three contests.
Tom Cusack completes the backrow whilst the remainder of the pack remains unchanged from last weekend’s clash against the Crusaders.
In the backs, there’s a return to the starting side for Andrew Muirhead, selected in place of the suspended Chance Peni.
The replacements bench sees two modifications from the last outing, with Blake Enever dropping to the finishers in place of Darcy Swain and Lausii Taliauli brought in with Muirhead promoted.
The last time the Brumbies met the Rebels at GIO Stadium, the home side triumphed 32-3 with the Rebels winning the last clash between the teams in Round Five earlier this season.
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For the Rebels, Junior Wallabies representative Semisi Tupou will make his first start as one of three changes to the run-on side. The 19-year-old talent made a lone appearance last season, playing three minutes from the bench.
Michael Ruru returns to the starting line-up for the injured Will Genia, while Tom English returns to the centres in place of Billy Meakes.
Melbourne Rebels Head Coach, Dave Wessels said: “We’re obviously disappointed with our recent results, but that’s forced us to reflect honestly on everyone’s performance. The players have been excellent in training this week, and show a lot of love for each other and club. We’re looking forward to the weekend.
“It’s exciting to see a young local guy like Semisi (Tupou) earn his first start – a big tick to our development program. We have a number of very talented young Victorians in the squad that will come through over the next couple of months. Semisi thoroughly deserves his opportunity.
1. Scott Sio, Folau Fainga’a, 3. Allan Alaalatoa, 4. Rory Arnold, 5. Sam Carter, 6. Lachlan McCaffrey, 7. Tom Cusack, 8. Rob Valetini, 9. Joe Powell, 10. Wharenui Hawera, 11. Andy Muirhead, 12. Christian Lealiifano, 13. Tevita Kuridrani, 14. Henry Speight, 15. Tom Banks.
Reserves: 16. Robbie Abel, 17. Faalelei Sione, 18. Ben Alexander, 19. Blake Enever, 20. Lolo Fakaosilea, 21. Matt Lucas, 22. Jordan Jackson-Hope, 23. Lausii Taliauli.
1. Fereti Sa’aga, 2. Anaru Rangi, 3. Sam Talakai, 4. Geoff Parling, 5. Adam Coleman (C), 6. Angus Cottrell, 7. Colby Fainga’a, 8. Amanaki Mafi, 9. Michael Ruru, 10. Jack Debreczeni, 11. Marika Koroibete, 12. Reece Hodge, 13. Tom English, 14. Semisi Tupou, 15. Jack Maddocks.
Reserves: 16. Nathan Charles, 17. Tetera Faulkner, 18. Jermaine Ainsley, 19. Matt Philip, 20. Sam Jeffries, 21. Lopeti Timani, 22. Harrison Goddard, 23. Billy Meakes.
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