• Preview: Rebels vs Crusaders

    The under-pressure Crusaders visit Melbourne on Friday to face a Rebels outfit they have struggled against in the past.

    Second-last in the standings is not a familiar position for the Crusaders and with a bye week on the horizon, Todd Blackadder's team will be desperate to get a few points on the board.

    You would think that a clash against one of Super Rugby's weakest teams would be welcomed by the seven-time champions but the record books show that the Rebels have a habit of giving the men in red a rough time. Last year the Crusaders needed a handful of late penalties to sneak to a 30-26 win on home soil and they were shocked 28-19 on their visit to Melbourne in 2012.

    Without Richie McCaw to lead the way and with Dan Carter not back until July, the Crusaders have struggled to imposed themselves in the dominant fashion of years gone by as they battle to find stability in their starting XV.

    This week sees yet another shuffle in their backline as Blackadder looks to Colin Slade to guide the team from the No 10 jersey. Some consistent goal-kicking would also come in very welcome as Tom Taylor and Tyler Bleyendaal have squandered heaps of points from the kicking tee between them.

    Having started their campaign in impressive fashion with a record win over the Cheetahs, the Rebels will look to rebound from a heavy defeat to the Force in Perth last weekend.

    You couldn't ask for a bigger turnaround in fortunes and many have suggested that the six changes made by coach Tony McGahan destabilised the young team.

    Once again McGahan has made several changes to his team, as Tom English returns on the wing and Scott Fuglistaller is added to the back row.

    Keep an eye on 19-year-old Sean McMahon, who has impressed so far but will face the toughest test of his credentials yet against a world-class Crusaders loose trio.

    Rebels – 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Lachlan Mitchell, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Tom English, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Luke Jones, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Toby Smith.
    Subs: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Max Lahiff, 18 Paul Alo-Emile, 19 Cadeyrn Neville, 20 Colby Fainga'a, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Angus Roberts, 23 Telusa Veainu.

    Crusaders – 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Nafi Tuitavake, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Tom Taylor, 11 Johnny McNicholl, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Luke Whitelock, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
    Subs: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Dominic Bird, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Kieron Fonotia, 23 Nemani Nadolo.

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    Simon Borchardt