TEAM NEWS: Hodge to start, Jones at six in Johannesburg

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Rebels coach Dave Wessels says a disjointed week may have been a blessing in disguise for his team as they prepare to face the Lions on Sunday morning (AEDT).

Just over half of his squad left for South Africa on Sunday, while Melbourne's Wallabies contingent did not depart until Tuesday morning AEDT ahead of Saturday's clash with the Lions, leaving them little time to adjust to the altitude in Johannesburg.

Wessels has opted to play almost all of his Test squad players in the clash, confident that they will be ready for the match.

"Fortunately, we had the game on Friday night so in actual fact we've had an eight-day turnaround and the travel's travel," he said.

"They only arrived a day later than what we normally would if we had played on the Saturday night in Melbourne.

"It's pretty standard prep for us and I think we've done some things differently in the way that we've trained - traditionally we've gone pretty easy at the start of the week and built into it where we've probably done the opposite this time around and I think it's really worked."

Wessels said having less time with his team during the week might actually be a positive, with less opportunity to tinker and tweak. 

"It shortened up our prep which also means we have less time to ruminate and think about things and stuff, you've just got to get on with it," he said.

"I think that's also been a blessing in disguise. Sometimes in the past, the luxury of time makes you do funny things."

Wessels has made a handful of changes to his side for Sunday's clash, with Reece Hodge starting on the wing for the first time this year headlining the reshuffles.

Hodge has come off the bench the past two weeks after overcoming an ankle injury and his return to the starters pushes Marika Koroibete to the bench, a call both about player management and Hodge's long-distance kicking ability at altitude.

"I just think we've got a run of eight games and we're just trying to be smart about making sure that everybody who takes the field is fresh," he said.

"I think one of the other things is Hodgey brings a kicking game at altitude which could be valuable for us. He can kick anything, pretty much the length of the field almost. He's a handy guy to have in the mix."

Wessels has also made some rotations in the forwards with Luke Jones moving to six and Ross Haylett-Petty and Adam Coleman teaming up in the second row.

Matt Philip will come off the bench after starting the week in hospital with an infected foot.

Wessels said he was confident Jones would adjust to the blindside role.

"I think for our game the only time it really makes a difference is at scrum time," he said.

"The roles in the rest of the game between the back five of the scrum are really pretty simlar and he still has a very important role at lineout time.

"He's been pretty instrumental there. With Ross there, Ross is 120kg, so he adds a little bit of weight to our second row and Jonesy has played a lot of six in his career.

"It just gives us some good lineout options but also Jonesy has got a real work ethic in the back row and we're fortunate to have some real competition there."

The Rebels take on the Lions on Sunday morning (AEDT), kicking off at 12:05am AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS.


Rebels to face Lions

1. Tetera Faulkner

2. Anaru Rangi

3. Sam Talakai

4. Ross Haylett-Petty

5. Adam Coleman

6. Luke Jones

7. Brad Wilkin

8. Isi Naisarani

9. Will Genia

10. Quade Cooper

11. Reece Hodge

12. Billy Meakes

13. Tom English

14. Jack Maddocks

15. Dane Haylett-Petty


16. Robbie Abel

17. Matt Gibbon

18. Jermaine Ainsley

19. Matt Philip

20. Angus Cottrell

21. Michael Ruru

22. Sione Tuipulotu

23. Marika Koroibete