The Rebels will be looking to spring a surprise or two when they host the 2016 Super Rugby champions the Hurricanes at AAMI Park on Friday.
Despite an opening-day defeat to the Bulls, the Hurricanes have emerged as title favourites following their back-to-back victories over New Zealand rivals the Crusaders and Highlanders.
Much has changed since the last time the sides met when the ‘Canes inflicted an all-time record defeat on the Rebels with a 71-6 pasting.
How quickly fortunes have turned as the Rebels now sit pretty atop the Australian Conference with four wins from their five games.
Yet to lose at home this season and on their longest winning streak with three victories on the trot, AAMI Park in Melbourne has become a difficult place to play at for travelling teams.
However, the Hurricanes have won eight of their last nine games in Australia, including their last five, which is their longest ever winning streak in the country.
Last season the Hurricanes broke the all-time Super Rugby record for most tries scored in a season (96). This year so far, the Rebels have scored 5.6 tries per game, the second most in the competition behind the Lions (5.7).
Both sides love to play attacking rugby and score tries. Whichever side can defend their line better will take this one and this season the Hurricanes are comfortably the best defenders in the competition, having conceded only eight. The Brumbies are the next stingiest with 10 against.
Although they have been prolific scorers, the Rebels have leaked 15 tries, almost double the tally of the Hurricanes, as a fascinating contest awaits.
Team news: The Rebels have made three changes to their starting line-up. Flanker Lopeti Timani, lock Matt Phillip and utility back Tom English all return to the run-on side, replacing Colby Fainga’a, Geoff Parling and Sefa Naivalu.
Wallaby prop Ben Daley has returned to the Rebels’ replacements bench after overcoming a concussion injury sustained against the Waratahs, while Wallaby hooker Jordan Uelese is also included on the bench in place of Mahe Vailanu.
The Rebels have again selected a 6-2 forwards-backs split on the bench, with Ross Haylett-Petty returning to the matchday 23 after being rested against the Sharks last weekend.
Ross’ brother Dane was not considered for selection this week as a precaution after taking slightly longer than expected to overcome concussion symptoms sustained in the Waratahs game.
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes have made three changes to their starting XV. In the backline Vince Aso comes in for Matt Proctor at outside centre in what’s the only change behind the scrum after last week’s win.
The front-row is unchanged from the 29-12 home victory over the Highlanders but All Black forward Vaea Fifita comes in at lock, replacing Murray Douglas, while Ardie Savea is replaced at openside flanker by Sam Henwood.
On the replacements bench Jamie Booth gets a spot in place of Richard Judd while Wes Goosen takes Aso’s 23 shirt from last week.
2017: Hurricanes won 71-06 in Wellington
2016: Hurricanes won 38-13 in Melbourne
2015: Hurricanes won 36-12 in Wellington
2014: Hurricanes won 25-15 in Melbourne
2012: Hurricanes won 66-24 in Wellington
2011: Rebels won 42-25 in Melbourne
Rebels: 15 Jack Maddocks, 14 Tom English, 13 Reece Hodge, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Will Genia, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Angus Cottrell, 6 Lopeti Timani, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Anaru Rangi, 1 Tetera Faulkner
Replacements: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Ross Haylett-Petty, 20 Colby Fainga’a, 21 Richard Hardwick, 22 Michael Ruru, 23 Sefa Naivalu
Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Julian Savea, 13 Vince Aso, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Sam Henwood, 6 Brad Shields (c), 5 Sam Lousi, 4 Vaea Fifita, 3 Ben May, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Chris Eves
Replacements: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Fraser Armstrong, 18 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 19 Michael Fatialofa, 20 Reed Prinsep, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Wes Goosen
Date: Friday, March 30
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-off: 19:45 local (08:45 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: William Houston (Australia), Jordan Way (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)