The Rebels and the Waratahs will meet for the second time this season when the two teams travel back down to Melbourne for their round 15 clash on Friday night.
The Rebels are coming off a three-point victory last weekend against the Queensland Reds which they won at the death due to an overturned penalty against Queensland, while the Waratahs finally strung a winning streak together for only the second time this season when they notched up a big 41-13 against the Lions in Sydney.
Earlier this season the Waratahs were the big victors in round 6 when they beat Melbourne 32-8 at Allianz Stadium, but this weekend the Rebels will have the advantage of playing at home, and while the past few results at AAMI Park didn't go there way, they have played considerably better on home turf, and opposition teams are beginning to notice this.
The Rebels have been hurt on several occassions this year for not lifting the intensity in the middle of the games, and then being forced to chase the oppoisitions scores when behind in the last few minutes of the match, putting more pressure on themselves. Last week, against a lowly Queensland Reds side, they were able to keep with the opposition throughout the whole match, and even leading in several instabces, proving the squads development and quick learning.
This week will be a different story, because the Waratahs are much fierce competitors with a more potent backline. Being exposed by the likes of Israel Folau, Kurtley Beale and Rob Horne has been the downfall of many teams this season, so the Rebels will need to be on their guard in defence -- especially the tough-tackling Colby Fainga'a, Tamati Ellison and Scott Fuglistaller.
Ben Meehan steps up to the no.9 jersey for the first time in his Rebels career, with first and second choice scrum-halves Luke Burgess and Nic Stirzaker both missing through long-term injuries. This will be a big moment for the 21 year-old, who will be up against former young Rebel Nick Phipps in the opposite number, and Bernard Foley at fly-half -- a man many are tipping to be the Wallabies fly-half in the Tests against France next month.
Melbourne's front pack have galvanised well in the second half of this season, with captain Scott Higginbotham, new Wallaby Luke Jones, Cadeyrn Neville, Scott Fuglistaller and Colby Fainga'a all becoming some of the Rebels best players. Their challenge this week includes Australia's highest capped prop in Benn Robinson, Tatafu Polata-Nau, and fellow Wallabies Kane Douglas, Wycliff Palu, Sekope Kepu, the 135kg giant Will Skelton, South African Jacques Potgieter, captain Dave Dennis, and the man touted to be the new Wallabies captain, Michael Hooper. An impressive, if not daunting, list of names.
Yet despite the talent these men posses, the Waratahs set pieces have lacked this season as evident by the poor numbers seen this season on the stats sheets.
The Rebels will be hungry to win again at home, but with several big names out of the team its going to take a mighty effort against a dangerous Waratahs outfit.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Will the Rebels prevail at home? Or can the Waratahs experience and x-factor get them another big victory?
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