PREVIEW: Rebels v Crusaders

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Wednesday, May 2, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Match details: Rebels v Crusaders, Friday, May 4, AAMI Stadium, Melbourne, 9.45pm (NZT)

Played: 6
Won: Rebels 2, Crusaders 4
Last time: Rebels 19-41 Crusaders, Melbourne, May 27, 2017


After a three-win start to the season with success over the Reds (45-19), the Sunwolves (37-17) and the Brumbies (33-10), the Rebels have managed only one more win, (46-14) over the Sharks. That is one win out of six after losses to the Waratahs (27-51), the Hurricanes (19-50), the Jaguares (22-25), the Bulls (10-28) and the Stormers (18-34). The Crusaders suffered a couple of setbacks in their third and fourth games losing to the Hurricanes (29-19) and the Highlanders (17-25), but have six wins to date over: the Chiefs (45-23), the Stormers (45-28), the Bulls (33-14), the Lions (14-8), the Jaguares (40-14), the Sunwolves (33-11) and the Brumbies (21-8).


Prospective All Blacks June squad contender, Crusaders first five-eighths Richie Mo'unga will be back in action in Melbourne on Friday. While the Crusaders have been well served in his absence by Mitchell Hunt and Mike Delany there is no doubting that Mo'unga offers an extra attacking edge for the Crusaders and while his focus is on the Rebels, others will be assessing his readiness to step into the breach expected to be left as a result of Lima Sopoaga's offshore move at the end of the season. The first five is one of seven changes to the Crusaders side that started against the Brumbies. Also back is centre Jack Goodhue who had a hamstring injury at the start of April. George Bridge is on the left wing and Seta Tamanivalu is on the right. Mitchell Drummond is at halfback. Wyatt Crockett will start at prop with Andrew Makalio alongside him at hooker. Pete Samu will start on the blindside of the scrum.


Having lost both their games on their South African tour, the Rebels have made significant changes to their pack. Props Fereti Sa'aga and Sam Talakai have been given starts while former England lock Geoff Parling will play along with flanker Colby Fainga'a. And with Jordan Uelese, a Wallaby, out for another three weeks, Nathan Charles will cover hooker from the bench after flying in from Bath where the former Force player had been playing. Coach Dave Wessels was familiar with Charles from their days together with the Force. "I know him pretty well and he's a world-class, set-piece hooker, particularly around his lineout. He's match fit and when he came in on Monday morning he was already across all the lineout calls and ready to go." Wessels said.


The Rebels like running the ball and are ranked fifth in the competition for metres made (455.4) while the Crusaders are back in 11th (397.4) but the visitors have beaten more defenders (20.6/18.9) and have proven more effective on the tackle (85 percent/80).


The Crusaders have won their last seven games in Australia, their longest winning streak across the Tasman while the Rebels have lost their last six games against New Zealand teams at home, by an average margin of 26 points. (Opta)


Rebels: 1.Fereti Sa'aga, 2.Anaru Rangi, 3.Sam Talakai, 4.Geoff Parling, 5.Adam Coleman (captain), 6.Angus Cottrell, 7.Colby Fainga'a, 8.Amanaki Mafi, 9.Will Genia, 10.Jack Debreczeni, 11.Marika Koroibete, 12.Billy Meakes, 13.Reece Hodge, 14.Sefa Naivalu, 15.Jack Maddocks.

Substitutes: 16.Nathan Charles, 17.Tetera Faulkner, 18.Jermaine Ainsley, 19.Matt Philip, 20.Lopeti Timani, 21.Michael Ruru, 22.Tom English, 23.Semisi Tupou.

Crusaders: 1.Wyatt Crockett, 2.Andrew Makalio, 3.Owen Franks, 4.Scott Barrett, 5.Sam Whitelock (captain), 6.Pete Samu, 7.Matt Todd, 8.Jordan Taufua, 9.Mitchell Drummond, 10.Richie Mo'unga, 11.George Bridge, 12.Ryan Crotty, 13.Jack Goodhue, 14.Seta Tamanivalu, 15.David Havili.

Substitutes: 16.Codie Taylor, 17.Harry Allan, 18.Michael Alaalatoa, 19.Mitchell Dunshea, 20.Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 21.Bryn Hall, 22.Mitchell Hunt, 23.Manasa Mataele.