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SR18 Preview: Waratahs v Rebels {18-3-18}

The high-flying Rebels will be hoping to make it four wins out of four in Super Rugby 2018 when they face the Waratahs in Sydney on Sunday.

After beating the Reds, Sunwolves and Brumbies, their next challenge is conquering Allianz Stadium in a result that would see them take a firmer grip on the Australian Conference. They will also hope that the Sharks and Jaguares do them a favour against the Brumbies and Reds.

Dave Wessels is doing a fantastic job in Melbourne since his switch from Perth and his players are certainly full of confidence and driven to continue this fine run of form. After the recent win over the Brumbies, their huddle was a determined one as they strive for a big year.

Will Genia and Jack Debreczeni have formed a solid half-back partnership while Amanaki Mafi is a special talent at eight. The arrival of Dane Haylett-Petty has also been crucial to their upsurge from 2017 and a mention must also go to Reece Hodge, who improves game by game, and Sefanaia Naivalu. He has an average of 16 metres per carry this year, the most of any player in Super Rugby with at least 10 carries.

In contrast their opponents on Sunday were hugely disappointing last week at the Jaguares and it would have been a tough journey home as they struggled, especially early on, in Buenos Aires. That result leaves them third in the Australian Conference nine points off the pace.

What may lift their spirits is the fact the ‘Tahs have won 11 of their previous 13 meetings between these teams, managing to get a losing bonus-point in their only two losses to the Rebels. They must though find a way to get out of the blocks faster or another defeat beckons.

Team news: Waratahs head coach Daryl Gibson has made several changes to his starting line-up for Sunday. The biggest surprise is in the backline where Israel Folau moves from full-back to right wing in place of Alex Newsome and Bryce Hegarty will wear the number 15 jersey. Elsewhere, prop Sekope Kepu replaces Paddy Ryan, lock Rob Simmons comes in for Tom Staniforth and Mitch Short will start at scrum-half.

The Melbourne Rebels have made four changes to their matchday squad. Rebels skipper Adam Coleman returns to the second-row after the lock was rested for last weekend’s victory over the Brumbies in Melbourne with sternum soreness. Coleman’s return will see Ross Haylett-Petty shifted to the back-row while Marika Koroibete will make his long-awaited first start of the year. Anaru Rangi makes his debut at hooker.

Previous results:

2017: Waratahs won 50-23 in Sydney
2017: Waratahs won 32-25 in Melbourne
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 32-08 in Sydney
2013: Rebels won 22-24 in Melbourne
2013: Waratahs won 31-26 in Sydney

The teams:

Waratahs: 15 Bryce Hegarty, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Lalakai Foketi, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Curtis Rona, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Mitchell Short, 8 Jed Holloway, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Michael Wells, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Ned Hanigan, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Tom Robertson
Replacements: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Will Miller, 21 Mick Snowden, 22 Alex Newsome, 23 Taqele Naiyaravoro

Rebels: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Jack Maddocks, 13 Tom English, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Will Genia, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Ross Haylett-Petty, 6 Lopeti Timani, 5 Adam Coleman (c), 4 Matt Philip, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Anaru Rangi, 1 Tetera Faulkner
Replacements: 16 Mahe Vailanu, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Colby Fainga’a, 20 Richard Hardwick, 21 Michael Ruru, 22 Billy Meakes, 23 Sefa Naivalu

Date: Sunday, March 18
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 16:05 local (05:05 GMT)
Referee: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Federico Anselmi (Argentina), Graham Cooper (Australia)
TMO: Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)



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