Preview: Western Force v Rebels

Date published: May 18 2012

These two are traditionally Australia's two weakest franchises and will be keen to avoid the wooden spoon on the table this year.

These two are traditionally the two weakest franchises in Australia and will be doing their utmost to avoid the wooden spoon on the table this year.

The duo head into this clash with contrasting fortunes, however. The Rebels are on a big high after some impressive results in recent weeks.

After scaring the Bulls before suffering a narrow defeat two weeks ago, they last week claimed arguably their best result since their inception last year when they beat the seven-time champions, the Crusaders, 28-19 in Melbourne.

The Force, in contrast, are in the midst of a slump which has seen them winning only two matches in their entire campaign with their last win being a 45-19 demolition of the Reds in Round Six.

Since that result, they have fired coach Richard Graham after he announced that he will be taking up a position as the Reds' head coach in 2013.

The Perth outfit found the going tough in their last match of their tour to South Africa, going down 53-11 to the Sharks last week. Prior to that they also lost 17-13 to the Cheetahs.

However, they are now back on their home turf and will be highly-motivated to return to the victory trail.

Captain and flanker David Pocock and fellow Wallaby, veteran lock Nathan Sharpe, will lead their charge up front while new fly-half Ben Seymour is expected to provide the spark for his outside backs to launch attacks.

The Rebels will fancy their chances of continuing where they left off against the Crusaders.

Their current resurgence has coincided with Kurtley Beale's move to fly-half and he will keep the Force defenders busy throughout this clash.

Another player who could prove a handful for the home side is former Wallabies utility back Mark Gerrard, who has put in some impressive displays this season.

Up front, stand-in skipper Gareth Delve has come to the fore with his ball-carrying ability, defensive efforts and fine leadership skills.

Prediction In the previous match between these sides, in Round Five, the Rebels won a closely fought match 30-29. Don't be surprised if this one also goes down to the wire. However, the Rebels are the form team and should just sneak in.Rebels by three!

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Western Force: 15 David Harvey, 14 Samu Wara, 13 Will Tupou, 12 Rory Sidey, 11 Napolioni Nalaga, 10 Ben Seymour, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 David Pocock (capt), 6 Matt Hodgson, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Salesi Manu, 17 Elvis Taione, 18 Phoenix Battye, 19 Lachlan McCaffrey, 20 Josh Holmes, 21 Winston Stanley, 22 Alfie Mafi.

Rebels: 15 Julian Huxley, 14 Mark Gerrard, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Lachlan Mitchell, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Gareth Delve (capt), 7 Michael Lipman, 6 Tim Davidson, 5 Hugh Pyle, 4 Cadeyrn Neville, 3 Rodney Blake, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson.
Replacements: 16 Adam Freier, 17 Jono Owen, 18 Al Campbell, 19 Hugh Perrett, 20 Nic Stirzaker, 21 Stirling Mortlock, 22 James Hilgendorf.

Referee: Marius Jonker (South Africa)