Rebels make two changes for Hurricanes

Rebels head coach Tony McGahan has made two changes to the team that lost to the Sharks for this week’s Super Rugby match against the Hurrricanes.

Rebels scrumhalf Nic Stirzaker was ruled out and his injury opens the door for Ben Meehan to return to the matchday 23 for the first time since Round Six.

Pat Leafa, who scored his first try for the Club in the 22-16 defeat to the Sharks last Friday, replaces Shota Horie in the starting lineup as McGahan looks to find the perfect mix to topple the in-form Wellingtonians.

McGahan was disappointed to see Stirzaker, whose time on the sideline is yet to be determined, miss out after being injured earlier in the season as well.

“It’s really unfortunate for Nic, who has been terrific for us since he came back from his first ankle injury,” McGahan said.

“He’s certainly added a lot on and off the field, and was heading in a strong direction for us, so it’s a shame.

“Luke has been terrific this season and we’re really happy with him, and Benny Meehan comes in and we’re looking for him to continue his really strong form off the bench from earlier this season.”

Leafa has worked his way back into the starting lineup, and McGahan was pleased to reward the young hooker with a return to the action right from the first minute.

“Pat started the season really well for us, and then Shota got in there through weight of performance,” McGahan explained.

“Pat’s work off the bench has really given him an opportunity to start now, in what is a really competitive positions, so we’re looking for him to turn his impact off the bench into a starting position this week. He’s really looking forward to the opportunity.”

Toby Smith’s shoulder injury again prevents the big prop from tasting any action, after he also missed last week’s game, but McGahan was impressed with replacement Cruze Ah-Nau on his first Super Rugby start and is happy to keep the young West Australian in there.

“While we’re eager for Toby to get back to the playing group as quickly as possible, Cruze has worked exceptionally hard to put himself into a position to break into the 23 and he certainly didn’t let anybody down last week with his performance. “

“He played against a very experienced and well credentialed forward pack last week and held his own; we were delighted with that, and now the challenge for Cruze is back that up against a strong Hurricanes front row this weekend.”

With the Hurricanes having named their side yesterday morning, McGahan was preparing to face up against a side chock-full of All Blacks and posing multiple threats, with the introduction of Ardie Savea in place of Jack Lam to the starting lineup one of their two changes.

“Jack Lam has been absolutely fantastic for the Hurricanes this year, and to have Savea underneath him really shows the depth of their squad,” he said.

“Savea’s really strong on the footy, really strong on the carry and a great link between the forwards and backs; he’s a player we’ll be paying plenty of respect, as with the entire pack.

“The Hurricanes have given us a lot to think about this week. They’re a side in tremendous form, and they’re a side whose improvement this year has been excellent, particularly in defence. “

“They are always strong at the breakdown and they always pose a lot of attacking threats, and their ability to stay in games for longer has been impressive this year as they move towards the top of the table.


1. Cruze Ah-Nau,2. Pat Leafa,3. Laurie Weeks,4. Cadeyrn Neville,5. Luke Jones,6. Colby Fainga’a,7. Scott Fuglistaller,8. Scott Higginbotham (C),9. Luke Burgess,10. Bryce Hegarty,11. Tom English,12. Mitch Inman ,13. Tamati Ellison,14. Male Sau,15. Jason Woodward

Replacements : 16. Shota Horie,17. Max Lahiff,18. Paul Alo-Emilie,19. Hugh Pyle,20. Sean McMahon,21. Ben Meehan,22. Tom Kingston,23. Angus Robert

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