Wallabies lock holds the key for Rebels' crucial clash
Matt Philip's hopes of playing in this year's Rugby World Cup have received a boost, with the Wallabies lock named for his first Super Rugby Pacific match of the season.
Philip will start for the Melbourne Rebels in their must-win match against the Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday.
However, in a blow for the Rebels, in-form playmaker Carter Gordon will miss the crucial clash with a knee issue.
Philip hasn't played since suffering a serious knee injury during Wallabies training last October, with the 29-year-old relegating Trevor Hosea to the bench.
The lock's inclusion is one of four changes to last week's starting XV, with Stacey Ili and Lukas Ripley combining at centre, while Reece Hodge replaces Gordon at 10.
Hodge, 28, will become the most-capped player in club history when he plays his 98th Super Rugby match.
He has scored 547 points over eight seasons, and has represented the Wallabies 62 times.
The Rebels have won three of the past four Super meetings between the two sides and will be returning to Dunedin for the first time since 2020's thrilling 28-22 win over the Highlanders.
Both teams are locked on 15 points, three points outside the top eight, with three games to play.
Melbourne Rebels: Matt Gibbon, Alex Mafi, Sam Talakai, Josh Canham, Matt Philip, Vaiolini Ekuasi, Brad Wilkin (c), Richard Hardwick, Ryan Louwrens, Reece Hodge, Monty Ioane, Stacey Ili, Lukas Ripley, Lachlan Anderson, Andrew Kellaway. Res: Jordan Uelese, Isaac Aedo Kailea, Pone Fa'amausili, Trevor Hosea, Tamati Ioane, James Tuttle, Nick Jooste, Joe Pincus.