Planet Rugby

Preview: Rebels v Force

14th February 2013 10:20

Share:

Gareth Delve Rebels v W Force SR 2012

Season opener: Rebels v Force

The 2013 Super Rugby season kicks off in Melbourne between two teams who seem to be generating an authentic rivalry despite the short existence of the Rebels.

In four games to date, the Rebels lead their head to head 3-1. They beat the Force twice last year, in two nail biting encounters. These sides are so close that if one totalled the scores of their four games, the aggregate scores would be 112 points each.

The Rebels form has improved on last season, if the 2013 trials are anything to go by. They ran with the Waratahs only to concede a try in the 81st minute to go down 24-16. They also lost to the Hurricanes 47-45 in an entertaining display of rugby from both sides.

The Western Force lost a narrow encounter to the Brumbies in their first pre-season game. They fought back from a 14-point deficit to almost snatch a victory only to go down 20-18. They won their second trial emphatically; a 46-0 obliteration of an invitational Tongan XV.

Going into the first game of the new season, there will be several variables. The most important will be team cohesion in general play and the set piece.

Both these sides have had a high turnover in the off season, so the first to gel under pressure may come out on top.

Secondly will be the issue of defence. The Rebels have let through 11 tries in two games and been labelled turnstiles in defence. The Force kept the Tongans try-less and conceded only two against the Brumbies.

Neither team had listed their squads at the time of writing but some inferences can be made from injuries. The Force will be missing first choice hooker Ben Whittaker, which forced them to sign former Rebel Heath Tessman.

Aside from Whittaker, no other major injuries have come to light to suggest the Force will go into Round One at almost full strength. The Rebels are missing outside backs Cooper Vuna (shoulder) and Jason Woodward (finger), would both have been likely in the matchday 22 if fit. Scott Higginbotham (shoulder) and O'Connor who received 18 stitches in his lip after receiving an errant boot in the face against the Highlanders should both be available.

Last Encounter: Rebels won 32-31

Key Battle: Kurtley Beale v Sam Christie. The Rebels have prospered when Beale moved up the field to fly-half. He attacks the advantage line with pace and draws his receivers into the gaps with his longer passes. Christie is an unknown quantity at this level after joining from Waikato. The former New Zealand Schools representative will have plenty to prove in his competitive debut for the Force and will want to nail down his place in the starting XV as South African pivot Sias Ebersohn - who is on the replacements bench - is breathing down his neck. The game may come down to who can who can get the better when running with the ball in hand.

Prediction: The Rebels have a clear edge both psychologically and historically but both are sporting new squads this year so history can't be a factor. The Rebels will be without two of their preferred outside backs while the Force have come through the pre-season intact. The difference may come to down to the stiff preparation the Rebels had against the Waratahs and the Hurricanes. The Force's choice to fine-tune against an invitational 15 from a second tier nation could come back to haunt them. Rebels to win by 5.

The teams:

Melbourne Rebels: 15 James O'Connor, 14 Lachlan Mitchell, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Rory Sidey, 11 Richard Kingi, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Nic Phipps, 8 Gareth Delve, 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 Luke Jones, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson.
Replacements: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Paul Alo Emile, 18 Cadeyrn Neville, 19 Jarrod Saffy, 20 Nick Stirzaker, 21 Alex Rokobaro, 22 Tom English.

Western Force: 15 Will Tupou, 14 Patrick Dellit, 13 Winston Stanley, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Alfie Mafi, 10 Sam Christie, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Toby Lynn, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan (c).
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Kieran Longbottom, 18 Phoenix Battye, 19 Richard Brown, 20 Mick Snowden, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Junior Rasolea.

Referee: Angus Gardner

By Paul Robertson

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 19
Gloucester vs Exeter19:45
Saturday , September 20
Sale vs London Welsh14:00
London Irish vs Saracens15:00
Harlequins vs Wasps15:00
Bath vs Leicester15:15
Sunday , September 21
Newcastle vs Northampton14:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 19
Munster vs Zebre19:30
Cardiff Blues vs Ulster19:35
Connacht vs Leinster19:35
Saturday , September 20
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Glasgow14:40
Scarlets vs Benetton Treviso18:00
Sunday , September 21
Ospreys vs Edinburgh16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , September 19
Brive vs ToulonBrive vs Toulon Preview
Saturday , September 20
Racing Metro Paris vs Toulouse18:00
La Rochelle vs Bordeaux-Begles18:00
Clermont Auvergne vs Lyon18:00
Castres vs Oyonnax18:00
Grenoble vs Bayonne18:00
Montpellier vs Stade Francais18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 19
Lions vs PumasLions vs Pumas Preview
Saturday , September 20
Western Province vs Griquas15:00
Blue Bulls vs Sharks17:05
Eastern Province Kings vs Cheetahs19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Thursday , September 18
Northland vs TaranakiNorthland vs Taranaki Preview
Friday , September 19
Counties Manukau vs CanterburyCounties Manukau vs Canterbury Preview
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
ITM Cup
Wednesday, September 17
Southland 14 - 38 TasmanSouthland vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 14
Wasps 20 - 16 NorthamptonWasps vs Northampton Report
Newcastle 18 - 20 London IrishNewcastle vs London Irish Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Cardiff Blues 12 - 33 GlasgowCardiff Blues vs Glasgow Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Bordeaux-Begles 27 - 21 MontpellierBordeaux-Begles vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
ITM Cup
Waikato 26 - 21 Counties ManukauWaikato vs Counties Manukau Report
Hawkes Bay 41 - 0 Otago
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 13
Gloucester 34 - 27 Sale SharksGloucester vs Sale Sharks Report
Bath 53 - 26 London WelshBath vs London Welsh Report
Exeter 20 - 24 LeicesterExeter vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Rugby Championship
New Zealand 14 - 10 South AfricaNew Zealand vs South Africa Report
Australia 32 - 25 ArgentinaAustralia vs Argentina Report
More Rugby Championship results
Guinness PRO12
Leinster 42 - 12 ScarletsLeinster vs Scarlets Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Toulouse 9 - 13 Clermont AuvergneToulouse vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Bayonne 23 - 6 Brive
Oyonnax 40 - 27 Grenoble
Racing Metro Paris 28 - 11 LyonRacing Metro Paris vs Lyon Report
Toulon 24 - 28 Stade FrancaisToulon vs Stade Francais Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Griquas 31 - 27 PumasGriquas vs Pumas Report
Lions 35 - 33 Western ProvinceLions vs Western Province Report
Cheetahs 30 - 30 SharksCheetahs vs Sharks Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Bay Of Plenty 12 - 27 AucklandBay Of Plenty vs Auckland Report
Southland 36 - 34 Northland
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 12
Harlequins 0 - 39 SaracensHarlequins vs Saracens Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Benetton Treviso 10 - 21 MunsterBenetton Treviso vs Munster Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens29
2Bath29
3Leicester Tigers29
4Exeter26
5Northampton26