The Melbourne Rebels will roll the dice against the Queensland Reds by naming two openside flankers in Richard Hardwick and Brad Wilkin in their back row for their Super Rugby AU qualifying final on Saturday night.
The Reds have their tails up after trouncing the Brumbies, who are already into next week’s grand final, while they are hoping to have up to 20,000 fans on their side at Suncorp Stadium.
Rebels coach Dave Wessels says his team, playing in their first ever final, feel like they have nothing to lose.
They see the Queensland back row of Wallabies-in-waiting Fraser McReight and Harry Wilson, and skipper Liam Wright, who made his Test debut last year, as a major attacking threat.
“We think the Reds back row is a primary threat so we’ve elected to play two sevens there,” Wessels said on Thursday.
“Some of the stuff they’ve done around the breakdown gives them a lot of energy and Fraser McReight has made a big difference.
“We’ve picked two sevens to put some pressure on the ball ourselves with Brad Wilkin playing really well and Dickie (Richard) Hardwick probably had the best game I’d seen him play last week so it’s hard not to pick those guys.”
Wessels said he had some concerns about the Reds’ breakdown, that that had “flagged to the referee”.
“There’s some stuff around the breakdown that we want them to keep an eye on,” he said.
It will be Melbourne’s first finals appearance after 10 years in the competition and comes after they’ve spent the entire season interstate with Victoria in lockdown.
In other selection changes, Andrew Kellaway has returned on the wing while Frank Lomani will start at halfback with James Tuttle ruled out with a hamstring injury.
Rampaging prop Pone Fa’amausili has again been left out as he recovers from a hamstring strain.
Rebels: Dane Haylett-Petty, Andrew Kellaway, Reece Hodge, Bill Meakes, Marika Koroibete, Matt Toomua (c), Frank Lomani , Isi Naisarani, Richard Hardwick, Brad Wilkin, Trevor Hosea, Matt Philip, Jermaine Ainsley, Jordan Uelese, Cameron Orr. Reserves: Efi Ma’afu, Matt Gibbon, Cabous Eloff, Michael Stolberg, Rob Leota, Theo Strang, Andrew Deegan, Campbell Magnay.
– Melissa Woods
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