Wallabies pair in Rebels squad for Highlanders clash

Rebels coach Dave Wessels. Photo: Getty
Rebels coach Dave Wessels. Photo: Getty
Melbourne's test duo Adam Coleman and Reece Hodge are expected to hit the ground running against the Highlanders, with coach Dave Wessels declaring the Wallabies in peak fitness as they return from injury.

They pair were named among the reserves for Friday night's AAMI Park clash after sitting out their round one win, with Coleman suffering a calf injury and Hodge on the comeback after fracturing his ankle.

"The biggest thing for us is the way that those guys have competed in their rehab to get to the level where they are," Wessels said.

"Both of them have hit some personal best fitness markers which isn't easy when you're not training with the main team and to have them back in training for the last two weeks has been pretty special."

Wessels resisted playing them in the run-on side after the Rebels' lock combination of Matt Philip and Luke Jones and centre duo Billy Meakes and Tom English performed admirably in their win over the Brumbies before a round two bye.

"I thought the guys who played against the Brumbies, a lot of them deserved to retain their spots and in some instances we've made changes because it's hard to split between two guys," he said.

The Rebels have made two changes to their starting side with flanker Brad Wilkin relegating Richard Hardwick to the reserves and tight-head prop Sam Talakai replacing Jermaine Ainsley.

The unheralded Reds came close to upsetting the Highlanders in Dunedin last round - something the Rebels themselves experienced in the final round last year with the narrow loss ultimately costing them a finals berth.

"The Highlanders are very well coached, and this game more than any other is one where you have to back yourself because you don't really know what they are going to throw at you," Wessels said.

"If you understand your principles you can cope with whatever comes."

Meanwhile, Wessels says he hasn't had any "formal dialogue" with Rugby Australia about a Wallabies camp in January that left Coleman and Dane Haylett-Petty with soft tissue injuries.

"The reality is that we're in a contact sport and people get injured from time to time," he said.

"The Wallabies would be the first to admit they can do things better, as can we, but did I have any formal dialogue that I was upset by the camp - no.

"It's important that everyone realises that part of our role as a provincial union is to support the Wallabies."

Rebels: Dane Haylett-Petty, Jack Maddocks, Tom English, Billy Meakes, Marika Koroibete, Quade Cooper, Will Genia, Isi Naisarani, Brad Wilkin, Angus Cottrell, Matt Philip, Luke Jones, Sam Talakai, Anaru Rangi, Tetera Faulkner. Res: Robbie Abel, Matt Gibbon, Jermain Ainsley, Adam Coleman, Richard Hardwick, Rob Leota, Michael Ruru, Reece Hodge.

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