Injury-hit Rebels reshuffle backline - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Injury-hit Rebels reshuffle backline

Jim Morton 16/03/2011 07:06:30 PM Comments (0)

The disastrous loss of fullback Mark Gerrard has triggered a major reshuffle of the Melbourne Rebels' backline for Friday night's Super Rugby clash with Queensland.

Gerrard's four-week shoulder injury has seen Rebels coach Rod Macqueen move four of his backs, including Julian Huxley from the centres to fullback and captain Stirling Mortlock closer to the action at inside centre.

Fiesty winger Lachlan Mitchell will form a new centre combination with 80-Test veteran Mortlock and Afusipa Taumoepeau has been promoted from the bench for his first start.

Big-kicking former Wallabies winger Gerrard, Melbourne's best player in his three appearances since returning from a stint in Japan, isn't the only key Rebel to miss the Suncorp Stadium clash.

Michael Lipman, displaying the form which saw him capped 11 times for England, was unable to recover in time from an ankle strain and has been replaced by former Auckland Blues back-rower Tom Chamberlain.

They join a lengthy injury list, including Kevin O'Neill, Adam Freier, Sam Cordingley, Hoani Macdonald and James Hilgendorf.

But there was some welcome good news with in-form Welsh No.8 Gareth Delve (knee) and lock Al Campbell (shoulder) overcoming knocks sustained in the 34-32 loss to the Sharks.

Macqueen overlooked former Penrith league flyer Luke Rooney, who played both fullback and wing with French club Toulon last season, to choose former Reds and Brumbies utility Huxley at fullback.

Huxley had formed a good playmaking combination with English five-eighth Danny Cipriani but his move to No.15 should see the Rebels take a more direct attacking approach with Mortlock at inside centre.

"Hux has played a lot of fullback so we thought it was probably better to get a specialist there, and Stirling is happy about playing outside Danny," Macqueen told AAP.

"It's not ideal, we've only had one practice run together due to circumstances but we just opted to go with the specialist fullback."

Despite the injury crisis, Queensland coach Ewen McKenzie stressed the Reds would not be taking the Rebels lightly.

"If you do a head-count they have more Test caps than we do," he said.

"There's no fluke that they're competitive and I think they're pretty well resourced."

Firebrand Adam Byrnes has been promoted from the bench for a mouth-watering start against the Reds, whom he played for 18 times in the past two Super 14 seasons.

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