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Preview: Rebels v Crusaders

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Thursday, March 13, 2014    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

HEAD TO HEAD: Played: 2, Rebels 1, Crusaders 1

LAST TIME: Rebels 26 lost to Crusaders 30, April 28 2013, AMI Stadium

WALKING WOUNDED: Wing Tom English returns to the Rebels after he was forced out late before last weekend's game. Scott Fuglistaller also returns after being rested last week due to a heavy workload in the early part of the season. It's been a tough time for the Rebels. They lost hooker Tom Sexton for the season with a knee injury. It will be two or three weeks before halfback Nic Stirzaker is back from an ankle injury. First five-eighths Jack Debreczeni has another four to six weeks with his knee injury while Sam Jeffries' facial injury has him out for another 6-8 weeks. And they are permanently without lock Chris Thomson who retired last week. Crusaders hooker Corey Flynn's woes continue with his latest injury a fractured eye socket which allows Codie Taylor to go onto the bench. Nafi Tuitavake has recovered from a hamstring strain and will play on the wing. Halfback Willi Heinz is recovering from a calf injury which will see Mitchell Drummond on the bench.

FORM:
The Rebels suffered a 32-7 pounding when the Force came out of the blocks as if they'd missed a bus in Perth last weekend and the Rebels were left to attempt to play catch-up. Leaving Fuglistaller out was a risk but he is back this week where his battle in the loose with Matt Todd should be a good contest. The Crusaders showed all their traditional mettle in grinding out a one-point win over the Stormers who had played much of the rugby in the game. More than anything the win demonstrated the desire still exists in the Crusaders side even if the execution is not yet at its best.

WE THINK:
Caught short last time they played in Melbourne, the Crusaders will not make the same mistake twice. However, they cannot afford to under-estimate the Rebels who have their own reasons for wanting to take a win out of this game. Having been taught the values of a good, positive start last week, the Rebels will no doubt look to inflict themselves on the Crusaders. However, the Crusaders' defence has been one of their strong points this year and the Rebels can expect to work hard to get over the line. The Crusaders should claim the winner's points.

TEAMS:?

Rebels:
1.Toby Smith, 2.Pat Leafa, 3.Laurie Weeks, 4.Hugh Pyle, 5.Luke Jones, 6.Sean McMahon, 7.Scott Fuglistaller, 8.Scott Higginbotham (captain), 9.Luke Burgess, 10.Bryce Hegarty, 11.Tom English, 12.Mitch Inman, 13.Tamati Ellison, 14.Lachlan Mitchell, 15.Jason Woodward.

Reserves: 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:
1.Wyatt Crockett, 2.Ben Funnell, 3.Owen Franks, 4.Luke Romano, 5.Samuel Whitelock, 6.Luke Whitelock, 7.Matt Todd, 8.Kieran Read (captain), 9.Andy Ellis, 10.Colin Slade, 11.Johnny McNicholl, 12.Tom Taylor, 13.Ryan Crotty, 14. Nafi Tuitavake, 15.Israel Dagg.

Reserves: 16.Codie Taylor, 17.Tim Perry, 18.Nepo Laulala, 19.Dominic Bird, 20.Jordan Taufua, 21.Mitchell Drummond, 22.Kieron Fonotia, 23.Nemani Nadolo.

?REFEREE: James Leckie