Flanker Sean McMahon will return from Wallabies duty to lead the Rebels into the final home game of the season against the Stormers in Melbourne on Saturday.
McMahon will captain the Rebels for the sixth time this season after scrum-half Nic Stirzaker injured his ankle at training on Tuesday and will miss the return of the Super Rugby season.
Rebels head coach Tony McGahan has made just two personnel changes to the starting line-up that defeated the Western Force in the club’s last outing before the four-week international break.
The injury to Stirzaker will see Ben Meehan return to the starting line up for the first time since Round Five while Jonah Placid will start on the right wing as Sefa Naivalu shifts to outside centre.
“We’ve had a really good couple of weeks on the training ground, including an exhibition game against the Hurricanes last week, so we’re looking forward to the remaining three weeks and strong finish to the season,” said McGahan.
“Unfortunately we’ve lost Nic to injury during the week but we’ve shown already this season that we’ve got the depth and leadership across the field to pick up the responsibilities.
“The final home game of the season is always a special occasion for players and fans but Saturday night’s game holds extra significance for the club as we a farewell foundation player and acknowledge Luke’s contribution to the Rebels over the last six years.”
After he limped off early in the first half against the Force, Mike Harris has made the most of the Super Rugby hiatus to overcome a hamstring injury in time for his last home game and 20th cap in Rebels colours.
Along with Harris, Saturday’s game will be the final home outing for Rebels foundation player Luke Jones in front of family and friends. The club’s games record holder will make his 37th and last appearance at AAMI Park.
McGahan has stuck with the same front row that defeated the Force 27-22 in Round 14 with Toby Smith remaining at tighthead prop for the second time this season, alongside James Hanson and Cruze Ah Nau.
Prop Laurie Weeks has been named on the reserve bench in his return to Super Rugby after being sidelined since Round 9 with a hamstring injury. The last time Weeks started as a replacement was against the Stormers in the corresponding round last year.
The Rebels have named uncapped Paul Asquith on the reserve bench for the first time with the 22-year-old back set to make his Super Rugby debut.
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Mike Harris, 14 Jonah Placid, 13 Sefa Naivalu, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Tom English, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Ben Meehan, 8 Colby Fainga’a 7 Sean McMahon (c) 6 Jordy Reid 5 Lopeti Timani 4 Luke Jones 3 Toby Smith 2 James Hanson 1 Cruze Ah Nau
Replacements: 16 Pat Leafa, 17 Tom Moloney, 18 Laurie Weeks, 19 Culum Retallick, 20 Adam Thomson, 21 Mick Snowden, 22 Mitch Inman, 23 Paul Asquith
Date: Saturday, July 2
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-off: 19:45 local (09:45 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Nic Berry (Australia), Amy Perrett (Australia)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)