The Reds welcome the Melbourne Rebels to Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Friday in an all-Australian Super Rugby affair.
The Rebels will still be ruing the fact that they missed an opportunity to leapfrog the Waratahs last weekend and put themselves in contention for a home play-off spot. With a losing bonus-point from the 31-26 defeat in Melbourne, they are now four points behind the ‘Tahs – who had led by just a single point prior to that encounter last Friday.
The men from Melbourne are in eighth position on the overall standings – the last quarter-final spot – well aware that the Sharks are breathing down their neck, only three points adrift in ninth. For that reason, they know they can ill-afford to slip up against an under-performing Reds outfit.
These are dark days for the Reds, who have won only one of their last 10 games and have lost their last five on the bounce. Last weekend’s 39-16 defeat to the Blues, in which both sides saw two players each sent to the sin-bin, might have been their lowest point of the season, but that has to be the 63-28 drubbing at the hands of the Sunwolves four rounds back.
Although the Reds lost 45-19 the last time these two teams met, bear in mind that their captain Scott Higginbotham was red-carded in the ninth minute of the game. So if the men from Queensland can keep their discipline this time around, it should be a far more even contest.
Higginbotham has been a shining light in an otherwise dim Reds dressing room and has added an offloading game to his repertoire in recent times.
The Reds will be desperate to avenge their defeat of earlier in the season. While there is no chance of them making the play-offs, there is certainly a lot to play for still in terms of pride.
The last time the teams met: The Rebels ran riot in Melbourne as they romped to a 45-19 victory in Round Two earlier this season. Reds captain Scott Higginbotham was red-carded in the ninth minute of the match, swinging the momentum of the game in favour of the hosts. In the end, a try from Tom English and a brace apiece from Sefa Naivalu and Dane Haylett-Petty proved too much for the Reds who scored through Duncan Paia’aua, Samu Kerevi and Chris Feauai-Sautia.
Team news: Izack Rodda returns to the Reds starting line-up. However, they will be without Test centre Samu Kerevi, who will be out for 12-16 weeks after undergoing surgery Monday to repair a ruptured bicep.
The Reds have made four changes to the starting line-up which lost to the Blues in Auckland last week. Rodda’s return from a shoulder complaint sees him slot into the starting second-row, with youngster Harry Hockings dropping out of the matchday 23.
Recent Wallabies debutant Caleb Timu has also been brought into the starting team at number six, after making his return to the Reds via the bench last weekend. Timu replaces Lukhan Tui, who has shifted to the bench.
In the backs, Kerevi’s injury has prompted a positional shift for impressive 18-year-old Jordan Petaia, who has moved from the wing to outside centre, with Filipo Daugunu promoted to the starting line-up on the wing.
Meanwhile, the visitors to Brisbane make three changes, with Tetera Faulkner and Marika Koroibete returning to the side.
Faulkner will make his first Super Rugby appearance since the win over the Brumbies in Canberra in May, while Koroibete has shaken off a back injury that saw him be a late withdrawal from last week’s match against the Waratahs.
Jermaine Ainsley – fresh from his inclusion in the Wallabies squad from the June series against Ireland – will start at tighthead.
Wallaby flanker Richard Hardwick also makes a return to the Rebels line-up via the bench; the 23-year-old in line for his first Super Rugby match since injuring his knee against the Bulls back in Round 11.
The Rebels will also celebrate a special milestone with flanker Colby Fainga’a in line to make his 100th Super Rugby appearance on Friday. Fainga’a joined the Rebels in 2014 after 35 appearances for the Brumbies.
2018: Rebels won 45-19 in Melbourne
2017: Reds won 29-24 in Melbourne
2016: Rebels won 31-28 in Brisbane
2016: Rebels won 25-23 in Melbourne
2015: Reds won 46-29 in Brisbane
2015: Rebels won 23-15 in Melbourne
2014: Reds won 36-20 in Melbourne
2014: Rebels won 30-27 in Brisbane
Reds: 15 Jono Lance, 14 Filipo Daugunu, 13 Jordan Petaia, 12 Duncan Paia’aua, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Hamish Stewart, 9 Moses Sorovi, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 George Smith, 6 Caleb Timu, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 JP Smith
Replacements: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 Harry Hoopert, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Lukhan Tui, 20 Angus Scott-Young, 21 Tate McDermott, 22 Teti Tela, 23 Aidan Toua
Rebels: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Jack Maddocks, 13 Tom English (c), 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Reece Hodge, 9 Michael Ruru, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Anaru Rangi, 1 Tetera Faulkner
Replacements: 16 Nathan Charles, 17 Fereti Sa’aga, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Ross Haylett-Petty, 20 Richard Hardwick, 21 Harrison Goddard, 22 Jack Debreczeni, 23 Sefa Naivalu
Date: Friday, July 6
Venue: Suncorp Stadium
Kick-off: 19:45 local (10:45 BST, 09:45 GMT)
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant Referees: Nic Berry, Graham Cooper
TMO: Ian Smith