Rebels brace for set-piece battle

The Rebels will have to withstand a physical onslaught from the Brumbies during Friday's Australian derby in Melbourne, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.

As illustrated by their 23-6 victory over the Bulls in Canberra last weekend, the Brumbies are one of the few Australasian sides that have the ability to win matches predominately based on their forward play. And if the Rebels are to succeed in winning back-to-back games against Stephen Larkham's charges for the first time, they will have to minimise the impact of the Brumbies forwards at the set piece.

By contrast, the Rebels, despite losing 36-30 to the Blues a fortnight ago, have showed some real innovation in their back play, which will no doubt help their cause against a Brumbies side deprived of their biggest attacking threat, Joe Tomane, through injury.

But the Rebels will need more, especially from the tight five. According's Opta-powered stats, the Brumbies boast a 87% lineout success rate. While it is significantly lower than a number of other teams, they are well ahead of the Rebels in this regard as well as in the number of carries made. The Rebels have a better scrum success rate than the Brumbies, but their physicality at the breakdown and gainline success have to improve.

The Rebels welcome back sharpshooter Mike Harris at fullback and lock Lopeti Timani for this match, while flank Colby Fainga'a earns a rare start after a good outing against the Blues. The return of Harris will please coach Tony McGahan as Jack Debreczeni's goal-kicking has been inconsistent this season.

The Brumbies have dominated this fixture with seven wins from 10 games. However, they will have to be more precise and clinical against a Rebels side brimming with confidence.

Overall: Brumbies 7, Rebels 3
In Melbourne: Brumbies 3, Rebels 2

– The Rebels won the last meeting between these sides and are aiming for back-to-back wins against the Brumbies for the first time in Super Rugby.
– However, the Brumbies have won seven of the 10 meetings between the two franchises, including three of the five clashes between the sides in Melbourne.
– The Brumbies have won their last three away matches to Australian sides, their best run away to opposition in their conference since winning four in a row across the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
– Joe Tomane has made five more clean breaks than any other player this season (23), averaging 2.9 per game so far.
– The Rebels' goal-kicking success rate sits at just 64% so far, the lowest of any side in the competition this season.
Source: Opta

Team Top point-scorer Top try-scorer Most metres gained Most tackles
Rebels Jack Debreczeni (78) Reece Hodge (5) Jonah Placid (355) Sean McMahon (87)
Brumbies Christian Leali'ifano (98) Joe Tomane (6) Joe Tomane (483) David Pocock (75)

Rebels – 15 Mike Harris, 14 Sefa Naivalu, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Cam Crawford, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Nic Stirzaker (c), 8 Adam Thomson, 7 Sean McMahon, 6 Colby Fainga’a, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Jamie Hagan, 2 James Hanson, 1 Toby Smith.

Subs: 16 Pat Leafa, 17 Cruze Ah Nau, 18 Tim Metcher, 19 Sam Jeffries, 20 Jordy Reid, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Tom English, 23 Kotaro Matsushima.

Brumbies – 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Nigel Ah Wong, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Robbie Coleman, 11 James Dargaville, 10 Christian Leali'ifano (c), 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Jarrad Butler, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio. 

Subs: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Allan Alaalatoa, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Blake Enever, 21 Jordan Smiler, 22 Joe Powell, 23 Lausii Taliauli.

Referee: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia)
Assistant referees: Will Houston (Australia), Michael Hogan (Australia)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)

Photo: Stefan Postles/Getty Images

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Mariette Adams