Planet Rugby

The British & Irish Lions


Preview: Rebels v B&I Lions

24th June 2013 15:49


British and Irish Lions v Western Force Sean O Brien

Chance to shine: Sean O'Brien

A strong Rebels line-up are the final Australian franchise to take on the British and Irish Lions as the pair collide at AAMI Park in Melbourne.

Damien Hill's side have not played since June 7 when they went down 39-17 to the Brumbies but are not an outfit to be written off by the tourists as on their day they can trouble opponents - beating the Stormers and coming close to upsetting the Crusaders in Christchurch adding weight to that.

This might be laughed off but the Rebels have arguably played better rugby when being without Wallaby duo Kurtley Beale and James O'Connor. It is worth noting that their 30-21 success over the aforementioned Cape Town side came when the pair were out, which is testament to their spirit.

However, are they of the same quality of the Brumbies? No. And with the Lions naming a stronger midweek side, the tourists should win.

Against the Brumbies it is difficult to remember Brad Barritt and Billy Twelvetrees getting their hands on good ball, let alone threating the defence. This week there is an established 10 at the helm while Manu Tuilagi is expected to give more impetus in the midfield channel.

The absence of Geoff Parling is a blow to their set-piece however as his line-out expertise sees him having stolen five line-outs so far this tour. He's been withdrawn from Tuesday's match due to Paul O'Connell's series-ending injury and is likely to start on Saturday.

O'Connell's injury does not hold a candle to the dilemmas affecting the thought process of Wallaby coach Robbie Deans though as a combination of arrest warrants, concussions and upcoming medical scans mean that Digby Ioane, Berrick Barnes and Pat McCabe are out.

That leads to a handful of Rebels players possibly fancying their chances of a call should matters worsen in the international camp. Of course, they won't need any more motivation to perform as they look to make it back-to-back Australian provincial wins against the Lions.

Ones to watch:

For Rebels: The absence of James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale for differing reasons over the past month or so has not impacted the Rebels as much one might have thought. One reason for that is the form of Jason Woodward. The New Zealand full-back ticks all the boxes you would want from a fifteen and his goal-kicking is going to be crucial if the Rebels are going to do a Brumbies on Tuesday. Hugh Pyle and Cadeyrn Neville are also strong.

For B&I Lions: Injury has kept Manu Tuilagi off the Lions radar in Australia so he will hope to announce his return to action with a powerful performance in Melbourne. He may not feature in the Tests so this could be his last outing in a 2013 Lions jersey, which is the case for many of those running out at AAMI Stadium. Another to watch is Sean O'Brien, who many believe should have been on the bench in Brisbane. A high-class back-row forward.

Head-to-head: Wales' past meets Wales' present at number eight on Tuesday as Gareth Delve faces off against Toby Faletau. Delve, who will leave the Melbourne franchise at the end of the season, captains the team and will want to lead by example in this final midweek game. He forms a strong back-row trio with the tyro Scott Fuglistaller and ever-improving Jarrod Saffy so the Lions facing them - while experienced - will not be in for an easy day.

Prediction: This is a better midweek XV than in Canberra. Lions by 15!

The teams:

Rebels: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Tom English, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Rory Sidey, 11 Lachlan Mitchell, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Gareth Delve (c), 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Jarrod Saffy, 5 Hugh Pyle, 4 Cadeyrn Neville, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson.
Replacements: 16 Pat Leafa, 17 Cruze Ah Nau, 18 Paul Alo-Emile, 19 Luke Jones, 20 Jordy Reid, 21 Nic Stirzaker, 22 Angus Roberts, 23 Cooper Vuna.

British and Irish Lions: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Dan Lydiate (c), 5 Ian Evans, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Ryan Grant.
Replacements: 16 Rory Best, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Matt Stevens, 19 Tom Croft, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Billy Twelvetrees, 23 Stuart Hogg.

Date: Tuesday, June 25
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-off: 19.40 local (10:40 BST, 09:40 GMT)
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)