Both the Rebels and Brumbies head into this match on the back of losses last time out but at different ends of the spectrum. The Rebels were battered and bruised in a disappointing effort against the Hurricanes, whilst the Brumbies went down by one point against the Reds.
To be belted in Wellington was hard enough to cop, but watching your star play maker go off with a serious shoulder injury was even worse considering the calibre of players already in the medical room at the Rebels. It could have been worse with Mark Gerrard defying medical science and somehow recovering from one of the biggest hits of the year on his sternum from Hurricanes reserve hooker Motu Matu’u to be right for this game.
The Rebels have dusted themselves off and want to get their season back on track that was looking so promising until they went to Wellington. They currently sit one point behind the Waratahs in the Australian conference and would love to be above them for bragging rights and this week they turn to James Hilgendorf to lead them around the park. Hilgendorf appears to be the forgotten man of the Rebels and is their fourth flyhalf of the year so far after the departure of Cipriani and injuries to O’Connor and Beale.
Adam Freier earns a start at hooker after his try scoring feat last week and ex-Brumby Jono Owen starts at tighthead. Owen was deemed surplus to requirements at the Brumbies and being behind ALexander and Palmer it appeared his game time would be limited in the Capital.
The Brumbies know what can happen if they take the Rebels lightly and became the first scalp in Rebels history in Melbourne last year. That too came on the back of Rebels hiding the week before so the Brumbies shouldn’t think they can rock up and easily chalk up the points.
But so much is different with this Brumbies side in 2012 and coach Jake White has tinkered with his side and made changes in both the forwards and backs. Lock Sam Carter and prop Dan Palmer are rested with Leon Power and Ruaidhri Murphy making the start with Ben Alexander shifting to tighthead to accommodate Murphy.
In the backs, exciting fullback Robbie Coleman finally make it back to the starting side and with that, Jesse Mogg shifts to the wing. Maybe the move of Mogg will help his kicking game which has been less than average this year with out on the full or down the throat of an opponent (Luke Morahan last week as one example) featuring too often in 2012 and will need more consistency in that area to break into the Wallaby side and coming up against one of the best in Mark Gerrard will need to do just that.
This game will also see the return to the bench of flanker Colby Faingaa who has been biding his time in club rugby in Canberra with the Vikings after suffering a ligament injury to his foot in a trial back in February. With Michael Hooper also in the Wallaby squad it wouldn’t be surprising to see both players get a half each.
Rebels: 15. Julian Huxley, 14. Mark Gerrard, 13. Mitch Inman, 12. Stirling Mortlock (c), 11. Cooper Vuna, 10. James Hilgendorf, 9. Nick Phipps, 8. Gareth Delve, 7. Hugh Perret, 6. Luke Jones, 5. Hugh Pyle, 4. Cadeyrn Neville, 3. Jono Owen, 2. Adam Freier, 1. Nic Henderson.
Res: 16. Ged Robinson, 17. Rodney Blake, 18. Al Campbell, 19. Tom Chamberlain, 20. Tim Davidson, 21. Richard Kingi, 22. Nic Stirzaker.
Brumbies: 15. Robbie Coleman, 14. Jesse Mogg, 13. Andrew Smith, 12. Pat McCabe, 11. Joe Tomane, 10. Zack Holmes, 9. Nic White, 8. Ben Mowen (c), 7. Michael Hooper, 6. Peter Kimlin, 5. Leon Power, 4. Scott Fardy, 3. Ben Alexander, 2. Stephen Moore, 1. Ruaidhri Murphy.
Res: 16. Anthony Hegarty, 17. Scott Sio, 18. Fotu Auelua, 19. Colby Faingaa, 20. Ian Prior, 21. Henry Speight, 22. Tevita Kuridrani.
The match will take place at the Stockade (AAMI Park) on Friday night at 7:40pm. For those not going, you can watch it on Fox Sports 3.
Referee: Keith Brown (NZ)
Assistant referees: Ian Smith (Aus), Simon Moore (Aus)
Television match official: Steve Lesczcynski (Aus)
There are a few match ups of note across the park with Wallaby spots up for grabs shortly. White v. Phipps, Vuna v. Mogg but I think the big match up will be in the respective second rows.
Wallaby bolter Cadeyrn Neville and another up and comer Hugh Pyle will come up against the Brumbies Scott Fardy, and his beard. Neville has made the Wallaby squad after just 4 games and Fardy looks to have finally found a home at the Brumbies and been one their best this season.
The Fearless Prediction
The big question here is can the Rebels bounce back from their beating last week? The fact that the Wallaby squad has been announced with some new faces from the Rebels should have lifted spirits around the team with Vuna, Neville and Phipps in the starting 15. Vuna was the best in beaten side last week but will he have the same moves like he does behind the wheels of steel?
The Brumbies also have their fair share of Wallabies and a few players who will feel they were hard done by and out to prove a point to Dingo and his clan of assistants. The game surely couldn’t be as dour as the Brumbies v Reds game last week and hopefully we see some flowing Rugby with Brumbies captain Ben Mowen stating that his team will kick less which will be rewarding for the crowd since the Brumbies can be dangerous with the ball in hand.
The one thing that is concerning about the Rebels is they have gone for a 5/2 split on the bench with the 2 backs named both only being noted scrum halves. If they sustain injuries like last week, it could be a messy ending. I feel that without Beale they may go back into their shell and lose that attacking flair that had been the highlight in the weeks leading up to the Hurricanes game.
Brumbies by 12.