Preview: Rebels vs Waratahs – 24/03/2017

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Both sides will be looking to kickstart their season when the Rebels host the Waratahs in their Australian derby in Melbourne on Friday.

The two sides have had poor starts to their respective campaigns and will need to use this game to start climbing up the table if they are to have any hope of having realistic play-off hopes further down the line.

The Waratahs and the Rebels hold the last two positions in the Australian Conference table with the Sydneysiders on four points just behind the Reds who are on six points and the Force who are on five. While the Rebels languish at the bottom with zero, a whopping 10 points adrift of the Brumbies who are the pacesetters in the conference.

The Waratahs will take solace in the fact that they have taken competition points from all of their five previous games against the Rebels in Melbourne, winning four and picking up a losing bonus point in the other.

They also tend to be great travellers in their country, having won seven of their last nine games away from home in Australia, including each of the last two, winning by an average margin of 17 points in those seven matches.

The Rebels have proven to be one of the more well disciplined sides in the tournament as they boast the fewest penalties (7.3) conceded per game of any team in the competition this season.

Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson hopes the changes he made to his squad will get the ‘Tahs playing the style of rugby they are eager to play.

“We need to get our combinations clicking. Up until now we have been far too inconsistent and the mistakes have been on us to fix,” he said.

“We are pleased to have Bernard back, his absence has certainly been felt in those first four rounds.

“The short turn around I think has been good for us this week on the back of Saturday’s loss. The team came in Monday eager to do what needs to be done to get us out where we are right now.

“The Melbourne Rebels won’t be an easy side to face at home and certainly they were unlucky to get the loss they did last week. They will be as eager as we are to get the win on Friday.”

The last time these teams met: The Rebels picked up their fourth win of 2016 and earned a four-point win against the Waratahs when they last met, their second ever win against the New South Wales club, and will now be looking for back-to-back wins against them for the first time. They claimed victory in Sydney with a 21-17 win last season after building up a huge advantage by half-time thanks to tries from Jack Debreczeni and Toby Smith, the Rebels failed to score any points in the second half as the Waratahs hit back through scores from Jack Dempsey and Matt Carraro, but the hosts fell short of changing the outcome.

Team news: McGahan has named the same run-on side for the first time in 27 games (Rd 10, 2015) and an extended bench, with one player to be omitted. Four changes have been made to the nine-player bench with the inclusion of Wallaby Lopeti Timani and Wales international Dominic Day, along with the return of centre Mitch Inman and prop Tom Moloney.

The inclusion of Bernard Foley will be a massive boost for the ailing Waratahs. The starting Wallabies pivot’s experience should provide some stability in the backline. After earning his first Waratahs cap in round three, Jake Gordon’s good form will see him start at scrum-half, with Jed Holloway and Ned Hanigan also set to start after returning from injury in round four.

Form: The Waratahs are dismally under performing this season after only taking one win in four games. After an unconvincing 19-13 victory over the Force in Sydney, they lost 55-36 to the Lions conceding eight tries, before a 37-14 loss to the Sharks and then succumbing to Australian rivals the Brumbies 28-12.

The Rebels aren’t in a much better position after three straight losses while taking a bye in Round 3. The Melbourne side have taken reasonable big losses in all their fixtures but were ahead of the Chiefs for most of their fixture last week until a three-try resurgence from the Chiefs that started in the 67th minute.

Previous results:

2016: Rebels won 21-17 in Sydney
2015: Waratahs won 18-16 in Sydney
2015: Waratahs won 38-28 in Melbourne
2014: Waratahs won 41-19 in Melbourne
2014: Waratahs won 32-8 in Sydney
2013: Rebels won 22-24 in Melbourne
2013: Waratahs won 31-26 in Sydney
2012: Waratahs won 30-21 in Sydney
2012: Waratahs won 35-19 in Melbourne

The teams:

Melbourne Rebels: 15 Jack Debreczeni, 14 Marika Koroibete, 13 Tom English, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Sefa Naivalu, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 Nic Stirzaker (c), 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Jordy Reid, 5 Steve Cummins, 4 Culum Retallick, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 James Hanson, 1 Fereti Sa’aga
Replacements(one to be omitted): 16 Pat Leafa, 17 Tom Moloney, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Dominic Day, 20 Lopeti Timani, 21 Jake Schatz, 22 Ben Meehan, 23 Mitch Inman, 24 Ben Volavola

Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Reece Robinson, 13 Rob Horne, 12 David Horwitz, 11 Andrew Kellaway, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Jed Holloway, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Tom Robertson
Replacements: 16 Damien Fitzpatrick, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 David Lolohea, 19 David McDuling, 20 Michael Wells, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Cam Clark, 23 Taqele Naiyaravoro

Date: Friday, March 24
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-off: 21:45 local (08:45 GMT)
Referee: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Jordan Way (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)


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