In the Rebels second game of the year they'll be coming up their first Australian opponent in a battle of the Australian Conference's two newest teams. Melbourne travel to Perth to take on the Western Force in the hope that they keep their good early form going, and send the Force into despair so early in the season.
The Rebels are fresh off a home victory against the Cheetahs in which they impressed under new coach Tony McGahan. As expected, the younger, fresher faced Melbourne side had a lot of energy and enthusiasm about them at AAMI Park and despite the Cheetahs' rise in form over the past 12 months, they looked out of sorts against the Rebels, who were forcing many turnovers and took the game on at every opportunity.
The Rebels make six changes for this weekends encounter, with young flyhalf Bryce Hegarty moved to the bench with Angus Roberts taking his spot. Lachlan Mitchell has likewise been moved to the bench and former Waratah Tom Kingston will start in his place on the wing. Colby Fainga'a -- brother of Saia and Ant -- will start in place of Scott Fuglistaller on the openside flank, while Max Lahiff and Paul Alo-Emile begin at prop, and Caydern Neville starts at lock. Shota Horie and Lopeti Timani come into the team on the bench.
As for the Western Force, they have already conceded 70 points this season and defensively were very poor against the Waratahs in round 2, giving away cheap tries -- none more so than that Alofa Alofa try at the start of the second half.
Small improvement was seen last week when the Force had the majority of possession against the Brumbies and scored two tries in the last five minutes of the game, but ultimately poor decision making and handling errors have cost them. Key players like Wallaby Nick Cummins and Luke Morahan (who will switch from fullback to wing for this game) are going to have to step up and play at the level we know they are capable of in order for the Force to capitalise on the attack, but as mentioned earlier, they must also be wary in defence due to the Rebels reinvigorated backline.
Vast improvements must be made for the Force if they want to claim their first victory for the season, but unfortunately for them, the Rebels will go into this game as favourites.
WESTERN FORCE: 1. Cowan, 2. Charles, 3. Longbottom, 4. Wykes, 5. Steenkamp, 6. Cottrell, 7. Hodgson (c), 8. McCalman, 9. Mathewson, 10. Ebersohn, 11. Cummins, 12. Godwin, 13. Rasolea, 14. Morahan, 15. Hayward
Subs: 16. Tessmann, 17. Faulkner, 18. Hoskins, 19. Coleman, 20. Stander, 21. Prior, 22. Holmes, 23. Brache
MELBOURNE REBELS: 1. Lahiff, 2. Leafa, 3. Alo-Emile, 4. Pyle, 5. Neville, 6. McMahon, 7. Fainga'a, 8. Higginbotham (c), 9. Burgess, 10. Roberts, 11. English, 12. Inman, 13. Ellison, 14. Kingston, 15. Woodward
Subs: 16. Horie, 17. Smith, 18. Weeks, 19. Jones, 20. Timani, 21. Meehan, 22. Hegarty, 23. Mitchell
Has Tony McGahan made the right choice to make six changes or is he taking the Force too lightly? Can the Western Force shake off their "easy-beat" tag and defeat the fast-rising Melbourne Rebels? Or will the Rebels simply continue their form from last weekend?