TEAM NEWS: Cooper to start; Naisarani, Jones out for Rebels

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

Matt To'omua will start off the bench for his Rebels debut after Quade Cooper passed concussion tests and was named at no.10 for Friday's clash against the Bulls in Melbourne.

To'omua has been named at no.23 in coach Dave Wessels' squad to face the Bulls at AAMI Park on Friday night but Melbourne will be without backrowers Luke Jones and Isi Naisarani, who are both battling injury.

Jones has a fracture in his eye socket and Naisarani has an injured toe.

Wessels said he was thankful to Leicester for releasing To'omua, who can't play in the finals but can take pressure of Cooper having to play every minute as they battle for the Australian conference win and a place in the Super Rugby finals.

"As we build to the back end of the season, being able to relieve some pressure off Quade having to play every single minute is very helpful," Wessels said.

"Matt's got the opportunity to come off the bench and make an impression and we'll take it from there."

 

To'omua arrived in Australia a week early after the Rebels sent an SOS following Cooper's concussion, suffered against the Reds last week.

"He was coming next week anyway, so it's only a couple of days early but when Quade went down, right after the game we weren't sure how he'd pull up and thankfully Leicester were very accommodating and understanding of where we were at," Wessels said.

"It happened pretty quickly but it's nice to have him."

But Wessels will not pigeon-hole To'omua as simply Cooper's back-up.

"He's played a fair bit of 12 and he's played a bit of 15 as well at Leicester," he said.

"That nature of Super Rugby is that you need a strong squad and if you think how our squad's progressed over the last 18 months and how we're building ... there's a lot of really positive things happening.

"One thing I've learnt in my career is better players make better coaches, so we try and get the best players that we can and we're delighted that those players want to come and play in Melbourne."

Naisarani has an injured toe and could miss the next fortnight, although Wessels described the break as a "blessing in disguise" for the workhorse.

"He probably needs a bit of a break anyway, although he's been playing really well for us," Wessels said. "We're lucky that we've got some depth in the back five in the scrum."

Luke Jones in action against the Reds. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley

Jones has a hairline fracture in his eye socket, a problem that initially went undiagnosed post-match.

"He didn't realise he did it until he blew his nose and it swelled up a bit," said Wessels, confirming his backrower could also miss two weeks.

"But Ross Haylett-Petty was excellent last week, he played with a lot of intensity and seemed to be really enjoying his game and we all know what a soldier Matt Philip has been for us this year.

"Both of those guys are covering us at lock pretty well and it's great to have Sam Jeffries back from injury.

"We're lucky to have Dickie Hardwick back, who's a Wallaby. He's been a bit unlucky with injury this year but I thought he was excellent against the Waratahs when we played and then unfortunately bumped his ankle in training. But he was really good off the bench last week.

"And in Robbie (Leota) and Gus (Cottrell), we get some great go-forward from Robbie and a huge workrate, as always, from Gus."

The Rebels take on the Bulls at AAMI Park on Friday, May 16, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST, live on Fox Sports and Kayo Sports and via RUGBY.com.au radio.

Isi Naisarani against the Reds. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley

TEAMS

Rebels to face Bulls

1. Tetera Faulkner

2. Anaru Rangi

3. Jermaine Ainsley

4. Ross Haylett-Petty

5. Matt Philip

6. Angus Cottrell (vc)

7. Richard Hardwick

8. Rob Leota

9. Will Genia

10. Quade Cooper

11. Marika Koroibete

12. Billy Meakes

13. Reece Hodge

14. Jack Maddocks

15. Dane Haylett-Petty (c)

Reserves:

16. Hugh Roach

17. Matt Gibbon

18. Sam Talakai

19. Sam Jeffries

20. Pone Fa’amausili

21. Michael Ruru

22. Campbell Magnay

23. Matt To'omua