Preview: Rebels v Force

Date published: May 27 2016

The Rebels are back at home and will look to get their slim play-off hopes back on track against an out of sorts Western Force team at AAMI Park in Melbourne.

The home side will be looking to give themselves something to play for when Super Rugby action resumes after the June internationals.

The Rebels have taken their attacking game to another level this season, scoring 30 tries in 11 games thus far, however their defence has let them down at times, conceding 38 tries in the process.

The Force on the other hand have not posed much of an attacking threat in this year’s competition scoring only 18 tries and conceding 46 five pointers along the way.

Statistics show that both teams like to attack and keep ball in hand so we can expect an open game of running rugby in this Australian derby with the Rebels ranked eighth for average amount of passes completed per a game (146.5) while the Force are ranked eleventh with 141.4 passes completed on average. 

The battle of the breakdown looks to be an even contest due to the fact that the Force have conceded 15 turnovers per a game while the Rebels have conceded 14.5 turnovers every game. The Rebels have also won slightly more turnovers on average per a game (7.8) while the Force are sitting on (7.5) turnovers won every eighty minutes. The scrum will also be a close battle with both teams having a 90% success rate in the set piece.

There are eight players between both teams who were selected in the Wallaby squad named earlier this week to take on England in June and they will be relishing the opportunity to show head coach Michael Cheika how they fare against each other in what could be a trial for spots in the first test against England on June 11. 

Rebels fly-half Mike Harris will look to control the game and get his backline into the right areas of the field while prop Toby Smith will want to put in a big effort in the scrum and at the breakdown in order to show that he has what it takes to deal with the big English front row come Test match time.

Competition on the wing is heating up as well and Luke Morahan will need to take all the opportunities that come his way in order to convince the selectors that he is the man to start on the wing. 

The last time the teams met: The Rebels suffered a pre-match blow with fly-half Jack Debreczeni being ruled out at the eleventh hour and it got even worse when replacement fly-half Mike Harris sustained an injury and had to be taken off in the 31st minute of the game. The Rebels were sparked into life from this moment on and debutant winger Reece Hodge made all the difference as his two tries earned his team a hard fought 25-19 victory over the Western Force in Perth.

Players to watch: Rebels centre Reece Hodge will look to leave the Rebels defence at sixes and sevens and add to his seven tries and eight clean breaks while fly-half Jack Debreczeni will look to put his team into space and add to his six try assists up to now.

For the visitors, full-back Dane Haylett-Petty has put in some fantastic performances varying his play with some clever kicks into space and going on the counter attack from deep in his half. His statistics read 786 metres made, 35 defenders beaten and 11 offloads. The Rebels will have to rush up on the impressive full-back if he is not to add to those astonishing figures.

Team News: The Western Force have made four changes to the team that lost to the Blues last weekend. Pek Cowan returns to the starting line-up after spending several weeks on the side lines and he will captain the team for the fourth time in his career while Francois Van Wyk drops to the bench. Chris Alcock replaces Matt Hodgson at flank and Peter Grant starts at fly-half.

Meanwhile the Rebels have made three changes to the side that went down to the Chiefs last weekend. Prop Cruze Ah Nau starts at loosehead prop which means that Toby Smith moves to tighthead prop. Luke Jones starts at lock after missing last weekend’s game because of an injury. Jack Debreczeni moves to fullback and Mike Harris starts at fly-half for only the second time this season.

Form: The Rebels have now lost three on the trot after their 36-15 defeat to the Chiefs last weekend which has left them sitting in eighth place on the Australasian group with 23 points which includes five wins and six defeats from their eleven games. With only four games of the normal season remaining they are a good thirteen points adrift of the last remaining wildcard position.

The Force went down 17-13 to the Blues at Nib Stadium last weekend which would have taken away any sort of confidence gained from their second victory of the season which they achieved three weeks ago when they beat the Sunwolves 40-22 in Tokyo. The Blues loss means that they have now lost nine of their eleven games played this season which leaves them sitting on last place in the Australasian group with eleven points.

Previous results:

2016: Rebels won 25-19 in Perth

2015: Force won 13-11 in Melbourne

2015: Rebels won 21-17 in Perth

2014: Rebels won 22-16 in Melbourne

2014: Force won 32-7 in Perth

2013: Rebels won 30-23 in Perth

2013: Rebels won 30-23 in Melbourne

2012: Rebels won 32-31 in Perth

Prediction: With showers expected on Saturday, expect the Rebels to grind out a hard fought victory built around a well organised scrum and line-out and a good defensive line. Rebels to take this one by 10-15 points.

The teams:

Rebels: 15 Jack Debreczeni, 14 Sefa Naivalu, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Tom English, 10 Mike Harris, 9 Nic Stirzaker (c), 8 Colby Fainga’a, 7 Jordy Reid, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Toby Smith, 2 James Hanson, 1 Cruze Ah Nau
Replacements: 16 Pat Leafa, 17 Tom Moloney, 18 Tim Metcher, 19 Culum Retallick, 20 Scott Fuglistaller, 21 Adam Thomson, 22 Ben Meehan, 23 Jonah Placid

Force: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Marcel Brache, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Luke Morahan, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Brynard Stander, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Guy Millar, 2 Harry Scoble, 1 Pek Cowan (c)
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Francois Van Wyk, 18 Tetera Faulkner, 19 Rory Walton, 20.Angus Cottrell, 21 Ryan Louwrens, 22 Solomoni Rasolea, 23 Semisi Masirewa

Date: Sunday, May 29
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-off: 16:05 local (06:05 GMT)
Referee: Chris Pollock
Assistant Referees: Andrew Lees, Michael Hogan
TMO: George Ayoub