PREVIEW: Rebels v Crusaders

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Friday, May 26, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Round 14: Rebels v Crusaders, AAMI Stadium, Melbourne, 9.35pm

It's been bad news all the way for the Rebels through the last five rounds of the competition. They've gone without a win, with only a 9-9 draw against the Sharks to stem the tide. They've also lost to the Kings (3-44), the Lions (10-47), the Reds (24-29) and last weekend to the Waratahs (23-50). The Crusaders are the complete opposite as they have extended their unbeaten run. The beat the Stormers (57-24), the Cheetahs (48-21), the Bulls (62-24), the Hurricanes (20-12) and the Chiefs (31-24). Last year the Crusaders won 85-26 in Christchurch and in their form of the moment such a scoreline would be the last thing the Rebels would want to see at home.
Having only returned to the side after missing their first 11 games, flanker Sean McMahon should add some substance to the pack with his first start. His ankle and knee injuries appeared behind him when he came off the bench against the Waratahs and he has his mind set on an 80-minute effort to not only help the side but also to state his case for inclusion in the Australia squad for the June internationals against Fiji, Italy and Scotland. He is keen to see the Rebels avoid the try-scoring chances sides have taken in the last 10 minutes of each half. In those periods last week the Waratahs scored six tries, three in each half. "It's just down to us and the attitude we bring this weekend. We just can't drop off as a team, every player needs to be doing everything and especially the bench needs to come on and put a performance we need," he told the club's website.

As one of the higher profile names in the Crusaders' squad Israel Dagg has been doing it hard watching from the sideline as the side has extended its winning run. But he's one of 10 changes made, two of them as the result of concussions to Ryan Crotty and Matt Todd, to the side which beat the Chiefs. There's plenty for Dagg to play for as he needs a good display to keep himself in the All Blacks hunt. He's not concerned about that at the moment, he said, but it has to be at least in the back of his mind. He knows he has the Rebels and the Highlanders games to make in impression. It should add something extra to the contest in Melbourne.

Rebels: 1.Toby Smith, 2.James Hanson, 3.Tyrel Lomax, 4.Steve Cummins, 5.Lopeti Timani, 6.Sean McMahon, 7.Colby Fainga'a, 8.Amanaki Mafi, 9.Nic Stirzaker (captain), 10.Jackson Garden-Bachop, 11.Marika Koroibete, 12.Reece Hodge, 13.Tom English, 14.Sefa Naivalu, 15.Ben Volavola.

Substitutes: 16.Siliva Siliva, 17.Fereti Sa'aga, 18.Laurie Weeks, 19.Culum Retallick, 20.Hugh Sinclair, 21.Ben Meehan, 22.Mitch Inman, 23.Jonah Placid.

Crusaders: 1.Wyatt Crockett, 2.Ben Funnell, 3.Michael Alaalatoa, 4.Quinten Strange, 5.Sam Whitelock (captain), 6.Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 7.Pete Samu, 8.Jordan Taufua, 9.Bryn Hall, 10.Richie Mo'unga, 11.Manasa Mataele, 12.Tim Batemen, 13.Seta Tamanivalu, 14.Israel Dagg, 15.David Havili.

Substitutes: 16.Andrew Makalio, 17.Joe Moody, 18.Oli Jager, 19.Luke Romano, 20.Jed Brown, 21.Mitchell Drummond, 22.Mitchell Hunt, 23.George Bridge.