The Melbourne Rebels are looking to win successive matches for the first time this Super Rugby season and feel their pack can match the Waratahs.
The Melbourne Rebels are out to prove a point after being steamrollered by the NSW Waratahs last time the met.
The Rebels admit they were outgunned by the big and physical NSW forward pack in their Super Rugby round six 32-8 loss in Sydney.
But buoyed by a breakthrough win over the Queensland Reds in Brisbane last weekend, they believe they can win back to back for the first time this season when they meet the Waratahs again on Friday at AAMI Park.
The Waratahs are just one point off Australian conference-leading Brumbies and boast the most players – 11 – in Ewen McKenzie’s new 32-man Wallabies squad while the Rebels got only skipper Scott Higginbotham and lock Luke Jones selected and sit 11th on the Super Rugby ladder.
Still Higginbotham sees cause for optimism.
“When we played them in Sydney they definitely got over the top of us and that’s what we’ve got to work on,” he said.
“The whole team has improved immensely since then, the scrum especially, and that’s a big point that’s come out for us in a lot of games.”
Young halfback Ben Meehan will make his first Super Rugby start following serious injuries to Luke Burgess and Nic Stirzaker and Higginbotham said he would fit straight in at AAMI Park.
“He’s a confident young bloke and we love playing with him so we’re looking forward to him having his first start.
“He’s been great all week so we’re looking forward to him getting out there and doing his best.”
Former Waratah Josh Holmes, who was drafted into the squad two weeks ago as injury cover, has been named on the bench.
Higginbotham didn’t accept that their three-point win over Queensland could be attributed to the Reds’ poor form.
The Rebels clinched the match with a contentious penalty in the final minutes.
“They played great football and we played great football and somebody’s got to win and it happened to be us but I don’t think they’re out of form at all.”
The Rebels will also be without in-form prop Laurie Weeks, who is out with an ankle injury, with Paul Alo-Emile in the starting line-up and Max Lahiff added to the bench.
Rebels: Jason Woodward, Tom Kingston, Tamati Ellison, Mitch Inman, Tom English, Bryce Hegarty, Ben Meehan, Scott Higginbotham (capt), Scott Fuglistaller, Colby Fainga’a, Luke Jones, Cadeyrn Neville, Paul Alo-Emilie, Pat Leafa, Toby Smith. Res: Steve Fualau, Cruze Ah-Nau, Max Lahiff, Hugh Pyle, Sean McMahon, Josh Holmes, Jack Debreczeni, Angus Roberts.