The Reds will host the Rebels in a dead-rubber match in Brisbane on Friday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
In the only last-round fixture that will have no impact on the quarter-final lineup, these Australian teams will look to end their mediocre seasons with a win.
The Rebels made a promising start to their campaign, but were unable to sustain that performance level to stay in the race with the Brumbies and Waratahs for the Australian conference title. Since the tournament resumed after the June break, they have suffered record defeats to the Stormers (57-31) and Crusaders (85-26).
The Reds have been in turmoil since their Cinderella-like run to the title in 2011. The Queenslanders' downward spiral led to the mid-season sacking of long-standing coach Richard Graham, but even that drastic course of action didn't see an upturn in on-field results. They suffered a 50-5 loss to the Chiefs and a 43-24 defeat against the Brumbies after the June break.
In this fixture on 12 March, flyhalf Jack Debreczeni kicked a late penalty as the Rebels edged the Reds 25-23. Despite the high combined score that day, it was a scrappy contest and we should expect nothing more on Friday.
There are three changes to the Reds lineup with props Sef Fa’agase and Greg Holmes and fullback Tom Banks earning starting spots. Holmes, who is the most-capped Reds player with 143 Super Rugby games, will feature in his final game for the franchise before joining English club, the Exeter Chiefs. Star flanker Liam Gill will captain the side in his Reds swansong before heading to French side Toulon on a two-year deal. Front rowers Saia Fainga’a and Ben Daley have been named on the bench, for what will be their last appearances for the Reds before joining the Brumbies and the Force respectively.
In changes to the Rebels team, lock Luke Jones, flank Sean McMahon and centre Mitch Inman return from injury, while fullback Paul Asquith gets his first start.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Reds 8, Rebels 3
In Brisbane: Reds 4, Rebels 1
STATS AND FACTS
– While the Reds have won eight of the 11 fixtures between these sides, it's the Rebels who've enjoyed the most recent success, winning three of the last five repeats of this fixture.
– The Reds have won three of their last four matches at home, though they have won only two of their last 10 home games against Australian opposition.
– The Rebels have lost their last thee away games, conceding 157 points and scoring just 71 of their own.
– No side has won more penalties per game than either the Rebels or Reds this season, who have been awarded 11.4 per game on average.
– The Rebels have recorded the worst goal-kicking success rate this season (63%), missing 2.1 shots at goal per game.
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Reds||Jake McIntyre (85)||Samu Kerevi (4)||Samu Kerevi (898)||Liam Gill (97)|
|Rebels||Jack Debreczeni (109)||Reece Hodge (nine)||Sefanaia Naivalu (608)||Sean McMahon (122)|
Reds – 15 Tom Banks, 14 Chris Kuridrani, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Henry Taefu, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Duncan Paia’aua, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Curtis Browning, 7 Liam Gill (c), 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Cadeyrn Neville, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 Sef Fa’agase.
Subs: 16 Saia Fainga’a, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Lukhan Tui, 20 Michael Gunn, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Alex Gibbon, 23 Campbell Magnay.
Rebels – 15 Paul Asquith, 14 Sefa Naivalu, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Tom English, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Nic Stirzaker, 8 Colby Fainga’a, 7 Jordy Reid, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Culum Retallick, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 James Hanson, 1 Toby Smith.
Subs: 16 Pat Leafa, 17 Cruze Ah Nau, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Sam Jeffries, 20 Rob Leota, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Sione Tuipulotu, 23 Jack Maddocks.
Referee: Will Houston (Australia)
Assistant referees: Andrew Lees (Australia), Amy Perrett (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)
Photo: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images