Do-or-die derby for Rebels

The Rebels will be desperate to get back to winning ways when they meet the Force in Melbourne on Sunday, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.

Since beating the Cheetahs 36-14 a month ago, the Rebels have suffered three consecutive defeats, against the Blues (36-30), Brumbies (30-22) and Chiefs (36-15).

Having been top of the Australian conference at one stage, the Rebels are now third, seven log points behind the Waratahs and six behind the Brumbies. With only the Australian conference winners set to progress to the quarter-finals from the Australasian group, Tony McGahan's men simply have to beat the Force to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

The Force have had a dismal season, with nine defeats from 11 matches. However, they have been a bit better in their last two matches, beating the Sunwolves 40-22 in Tokyo and going down 17-13 to the Blues at home in a game they should have won.

Matches between the Rebels and Force are always close affairs, but it's the former who have found a way to win in recent years. And with home-ground advantage, the Rebels, who beat the Force 25-19 in Perth in round one, should do the double over their Australian rivals.

The Rebels have made three changes to their starting XV, with loosehead prop Cruze Ah Nau, No 4 lock Luke Jones and openside flank Jordy Reid coming in. In a positional switch, Mike Harris shifts to flyhalf with Jack Debreczeni moving to fullback.

Pek Cowan will captain the Force in the absence of Matt Hodgson, who is replaced at openside flank by Chris Alcock. Cowan comes in for Francois van Wyk, while Peter Grant will start at No 10.

Overall: Rebels 8, Force 3
In Melbourne: Rebels 3, Force 2

– The Rebels have won seven of their last nine games against the Force, though only once in this fixture’s history (11 games) has a game been decided by more than seven points.
– The Rebels have lost their last three games; they have not lost more in a row since ending the 2014 season with five consecutive losses.
– The Force have won three of their last six games away from home and will be looking for back-to-back road wins for the first time since round two this season.
– Sean McMahon has beaten 40 defenders so far this campaign, the most of any forward and the third most overall.
– The Force remain the most accurate goal-kickers in the competition (93.2%), no other side has managed higher than 82%.
Source: Opta

Team Top point-scorer Top try-scorer Most metres gained Most tackles
Rebels Jack Debreczeni (85) Reece Hodge (7) Sean McMahon (431) Sean McMahon (107)
Force Peter Grant (45) Marcel Brache (3) Dane Haylett-Petty (786) Matt Hodgson (162)

Rebels – 15 Jack Debreczeni, 14 Sefa Naivalu, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Tom English, 10 Mike Harris, 9 Nic Stirzaker (c), 8 Colby Fainga’a, 7 Jordy Reid, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Toby Smith, 2 James Hanson, 1 Cruze Ah Nau.
Subs: 16 Pat Leafa, 17 Tom Moloney, 18 Tim Metcher, 19 Culum Retallick, 20 Scott Fuglistaller, 21 Adam Thomson, 22 Ben Meehan, 23 Jonah Placid.

Force – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Marcel Brache, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Luke Morahan, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Brynard Stander, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Guy Millar, 2 Harry Scoble, 1 Pek Cowan (c).
Subs: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Francois Van Wyk, 18 Tetera Faulkner, 19 Rory Walton, 20 Angus Cottrell, 21 Ryan Louwrens, 22 Solomoni Rasolea, 23 Semisi Masirewa.

Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Andrew Lees (Australia), Michael Hogan (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images

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Simon Borchardt