Isi ready to fire Rebels into Super finals

Wed, 21/04/2021, 11:16 pm
Melissa Woods - AAP
by Melissa Woods - AAP
Isi Naisarani takes the ball to the line for the Melbourne Rebels. Photo: Getty Images

No.8 Isi Naisarani will get his first start of the Super Rugby AU season against the Waratahs, with the Rebels hoping to leap-frog the Force into the finals.

Isi Naisarani isn't ready for his Super Rugby AU season to be over and vowed to do all he can to see Melbourne into the finals with a win over the Waratahs on Saturday night.

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The Rebels will know exactly what's ahead of them before kick-off at Bankwest Stadium, with their finals rivals Western Force hosting unbeaten Queensland on Friday night.

If the Force win they will secure the remaining play-off position and it's season over for Melbourne, putting additional pressure on coach Dave Wessels. 

Wallabies No.8 Naisarani has been named in the starting side after making his return from off-season knee surgery last week via the bench, with Brad Wilkin also a new face in the back-row.

Ross Haylett-Petty will replace suspended lock Trevor Hosea.

Trevor Hosea suspended for cleanout on Nic White

Skipper Dane Haylett-Petty has fallen short in his comeback quest at after ongoing concussion issues.

Young Queensland playmaker Carter Gordon and English recruit George Worth are set to make their Rebels debut after being named in the reserves.

Naisarani said he was excited to be back in the starting side after a frustrating 12 months, also suffering a serious hamstring injury last year.

"This week is do or die for us against the Waratahs," the 26-year-old told AAP. 

"For myself, I need to give everything and be physically present with big carries and tackling.

"I had to earn the right to be in the team and have been given the chance to start so I will do everything I can because we need a win to play finals."

Off-contract Naisarani said he was still mulling his future, but was focused on playing and leaving contracts with his manager.

The Waratahs have named the same starting 15 that fell achingly short last round against the Force, with Ben Donaldson again donning the No.10 jersey. The NSW outfit are looking to avoid their first-ever winless Super season.

The Reds have named Test stars centre Hunter Paisami, Fijian flyer Filipo Daugunu and skipper Liam Wright in his first start as they gun for their eighth straight win.

Reds coach Brad Thorn said both teams had plenty to play for as they tune-up for next month's grand final, which they will host.

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Force coach Tim Sampson has made three changes for the crucial match, with Irish veteran Rob Kearney returning at fullback after an adductor injury.

Speedster Toni Pulu also makes his first start since a round four hamstring injury, while former Wallabies prop Greg Holmes is at tighthead.

Argentinian halves duo Tomas Cubelli and Domingo Miotti remain in place.

Sampson and his side were confident of securing their third consecutive win and first Super Rugby AU finals berth.

"I think the squad is oozing confidence after showing great character with how we've won those last two games," Sampson said.

The NSW Waratahs host the Melbourne Rebels for the Weary Dunlop Shield on Saturday Night, ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport as well as simulcast live on 9Gem, click here to purchase tickets.

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