The Reds will need to contain Rebels flank Sean McMahon in their quest to claim an away victory in Melbourne on Friday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
The Rebels have lost all three of their home matches this season. However, those results came against three teams – the Waratahs, Brumbies and Lions – that sit above them on the Vodacom Super Rugby log. In the Reds, they face a side reeling in 14th position, with only one win to date.
McMahon, who captained the Australian U20 side at last year's Junior World Championship before making his Wallabies debut against Wales in November, has caught the eye again this season despite the Rebels' recent poor form. The Reds did well to contain the Lions last week and kept them down to only 18 points. The 20-year-old will need to shine and get the Rebels over the gainline with his strong ball-carrying skills and high work-rate at the breakdown.
He will be up against the more experienced Adam Thomson, who has made a difference to the Reds pack since joining them from the Canon Eagles in Japan. It will be interesting to see if the 13-year age gap between the two will play a telling role in the outcome of this duel.
Elsewhere, the match-up between the established halfback pairing of Quade Cooper and Will Genia and rising Rebels duo Jack Debreczeni and Nic Stirzaker will be a key battle in this contest. Cooper made his return against the Lions after a lengthy injury lay-off, and while he performed better than those who stood in for him, he looked rusty and at times agitated during the match. If Cooper and Genia fire for the Reds, the Rebels defence will be under constant pressure.
Both coaches have made minimal changes, with the Reds selecting tighthead prop Greg Holmes, flank Liam Gill and wing Chris Feauai-Sautia ahead of Sam Talakai, Curtis Browning and Chris Kuridrani. The Rebels have swapped lock Cadeyrn Neville and injured prop Laurie Weeks for Lopeti Timani and Paul Alo-Emile.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Rebels 1, Reds 7
In Melbourne: Rebels 0, Reds 4
STATS AND FACTS
– The Reds' largest ever Super Rugby win (53-3) came against the Rebels in their first meeting with their Melbourne rivals in March 2011.
– The last three matches between the sides have produced over 50 points each.
– The Rebels are enduring their worst ever run of form at home having lost their last seven in Melbourne.
– The Reds have lost eight of their last nine away matches, gaining a losing bonus point in just two of those.
– The Rebels have the lowest lineout success rate in the competition (76%).
– Just two other sides have a better lineout success rate than the Reds (90%).
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Rebels||Mike Harris (67)||Lopeti Timani (2)||Mike Harris (387)||Sean McMahon (77)|
|Reds||Lachie Turner (13)||Marco Kotze, Lachie Turner, Jake Schatz, Samu Kerevi (1)||Chris Kuridrani (224)||Liam Gill (46)|
Rebels – 15 Mike Harris, 14 Tom English, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Sefanaia Naivalu, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Nic Stirzaker, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Toby Smith.
Subs: 16 Tom Sexton, 17 Cruze Ah-Nau, 18 Tim Metcher, 19 Cadeyrn Neville, 20 Colby Fainga'a, 21 Luke Burgess, 22 Jordy Reid, 23 Bryce Hegarty.
Reds – 15 Lachie Turner, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Anthony Fainga’a, 11 James O’Connor, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 James Horwill, 4 Dave McDuling, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 James Hanson, 1 James Slipper (c).
Subs: 16 Ben Daley, 17 Saia Fainga’a, 18 Sef Faagase, 19 Marco Kotze, 20 Curtis Browning, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Chris Kuridrani, 23 Karmichael Hunt.
Photo: Chris Hyde/Getty Images