Super Rugby round eight
Melbourne Rebels recall Cooper Vuna
April 4, 2013
The Rebels' Cooper Vuna keeps his balance against the Reds, Reds v Melbourne Rebels, Super Rugby, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Australia, March 10, 2012
Cooper Vuna has served his time for his involvement in the Durban incident © Getty Images

Melbourne Rebels winger Cooper Vuna returns from suspension on the bench for the Super Rugby match against Western Force in Perth. Vuna was banned for one match following his punch-up with team-mate Kurtley Beale on the team's recent tour of South Africa, while Beale was suspended indefinitely given his shady history.

Rebels skipper Gareth Delve, who was also punched by Beale during the infamous incident, will miss the match due to minor issues with his ribs and shoulder. Flanker Scott Higginbotham will captain the side in Delve's absence, becoming the club's fourth skipper in their short history.

Rebels star James O'Connor said Beale still had the support of the team, despite his latest misdemeanour. "The boys want Kurtley back," O'Connor said. "He's definitely got the support of the playing group. I'm a very close friend of Kurtley's and he's a great guy. He'll pull together and stick strong. He's got a lot of great mates in his team and we're all with him. He's just putting in the hard yards and trying to get fit, and trying to do all the little things to make everything right."

Lock Cadeyrn Neville and former Force centre Rory Sidey both get their chance in the run-on side, while Scott Fuglistaller regains the No. 7 jersey at the expense of Jordy Reid.

Centre Lachlan Mitchell was ruled out after suffering a cork.

The Rebels have won four of their five matches against the Force, but they enter the latest contest on the back of a demoralising five-game losing streak that has put them at the bottom of the Australian conference. The worst loss in that run came two weeks ago, when they were smashed 64-7 by the Sharks in Durban.

Coach Damien Hill was confident that Higginbotham would lead the team well, and said Delve should be available next week. "Scott will bring a different level of energy to the team's on-field leadership," Hill said. "He plays with a level of passion that will be infectious to his peers. He leads by example."

Rebels: James O'Connor; Jason Woodward, Mitch Inman, Rory Sidey, Richard Kingi; Angus Roberts, Nick Phipps; Scott Higginbotham (captain), Scott Fuglistaller, Luke Jones; Cadeyrn Neville, Hugh Pyle; Paul Alo-Emile, Ged Robinson, Nic Henderson. Replacements: Shota Horie, Laurie Weeks, Jarrod Saffy, Jordy Reid, Nic Stirzaker, Tom English, Cooper Vuna.


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