Preview: Rebels v Reds - Green and Gold Rugby
Melbourne Rebels

Preview: Rebels v Reds

Preview: Rebels v Reds

Finally!  Rugby is back.  And not a minute too soon.

After an annus horribilis for Australian Rugby both on and off the field, I don’t know how a major sporting competition/body can expect to grow in the future with the significant contraction that occurred in 2017. (I am sorry I digress, I am also sorry to the Western Force fans and I hope to see the Force back in a meaningful competition sooner rather than later). Thankfully the 2018 Super Rugby season kicks off on Friday night (for the Australian and NZ teams at least with two matches in South Africa last weekend).

2017 Results

Not surprisingly the Reds did not have a very good season in 2017 winning 4 matches and losing 11 with a points difference of 158. Well, those numbers don’t look very good but they look great when compared to the 2017 season for the Rebels who had just one win and one draw in 2017 and a points difference of 333. Both of these results happened within the space of 7 days. So the rest of the season was very bleak indeed for the Rebels.



The Rebels started the pre-season against the Brumbies with the Rebels being outscored eight tries to three and 50 points to 19. Courtesy of the Rebels website coach Dave Wessels said “We ticked a lot of boxes in particular in the first 30 minutes in terms of some of the detail and in the last 40 minutes, I thought some of the young guys showed a lot of energy and intensity, which was great from them.”

In the Rugby Tens, the Rebels won a thriller v the Reds and lost a thriller to the Panasonic Wild Knights before being comprehensively beaten by the Blues.

The Rebels finished the pre-season with a 47-5 loss to the Waratahs. The Waratahs led 7-5 at half time but the second half was all Waratahs and included yellow cards to Semisi Tupou and Sione Tuipulotu.


The Reds pre-season consisted of an internal trial, the Rugby Tens and a trial against the Fijian Warriors.

In the Rugby Tens despite losing to the Rebels in the group stage the Reds managed to reach the semi-finals, courtesy of a big win against the Panasonic Wild Knights in the group stage, and a quarter final win over the Chiefs.

In their final pre-season match the Reds defeated the Fijian Warriors 17-15 following a 75th minute try from Izaia Perese, who unfortunately has injured his knee, and resulting conversion from Hamish Stewart. Taniela Tupou was the other try scorer for the Reds.

Courtesy of the Reds website coach Brad Thorn said: “It was a tough trial. The Fijians are big men and they have that canny way of just continuing to move the ball. I thought we defended reasonably well for long periods, but our ball control let us down in attack.”

Brad Thorn lays down the law at half-time

Brad Thorn takes over the clipboard at the Reds


The Rebels have appointed former Western Force coach Dave Wessels as their 2018 coach. Wessels had good results with the Force last season. The team were obviously playing for each other, their coach and their fans during a difficult season. One of the most difficult things for Wessels will be getting three distinct groups – 2017 Rebels players, 2017 Force players and players who have been recruited from elsewhere – to gel into one team and to have the necessary cohesion. Wessels has brought a significant number of both his players and off field staff from the Force. Wessels has been talking about the right things in the pre-season – such as mental toughness and intensity.

The Reds have appointed former dual-code star Brad Thorn as their coach to replace Nick Stiles. Thorn coaching resume is relatively short with Queensland Country but as a player he is extremely experienced. He comes from the winning cultures of the Brisbane Broncos, the Crusaders and the All Blacks. Thorn has already made his mark, telling Quade Cooper and Nick Frisby that they are not required in 2018. Interestingly, Thorn’s coaching structure also includes former Melbourne Rebels coach Tony McGahan.

Players to Watch

Amanaki Mafi

Mafi was the clear stand out player for the Rebels in 2017 in his first season in Melbourne.  He is a dynamic runner who started a lot of the Rebels attacking raids. The Japanese international was one of the few highlights for Rebels fans in 2017.

Amanaki Mafi in space.

Amanaki Mafi in space.

Will Genia

Wallabies vice-captain Genia brings a truckload of experience to the Rebels. One of the areas that the Rebels struggled in recently has been composure and direction from the scrum base, and Genia brings that in spades. He is returning from injury and has not featured in the pre-season trials.

Scott Higginbotham

Higginbotham has been appointed as the Reds captain and he will be keen to lead his team from the front. Making this even more interesting is the fact that he will come up against the side he previously captained in the Rebels. Don’t be surprised if Higginbotham finds the try line either, he is the leading try scoring forward in Super Rugby history.

Scott Higginbotham was pulled down short of the line in the second half

Scott Higginbotham the new captain of the Reds

Jono Lance

Lance returns to the Reds from the Western Force. with a brief stint at the Melbourne Rebels. The Rebels granted him a release during the pre-season for him to re-join the Reds, in oerder for him to be closer to his family. Lance will start in the number ten jersey, previously owned by Quade Cooper. This will be an interesting battle between Lance and Jack Debreczeni, given Wessels had probably earmarked Lance as fly half at the Rebels. Fly half is also an area that the Rebels have not strengthened via their recruitment.


This should be a close match, but with some early season cobwebs. I think the Rebels may still be struggling with the level of cohesion required at this early stage of the season, particularly with Will Genia just returning from injury. Therefore, I am picking the Reds to win by 5 points.


Melbourne Rebels
1. Tetera Faulkner
2. Jordan Uelese
3. Jermaine Ainsley
4. Matt Philip
5. Adam Coleman (c)
6. Lopeti Timani
7. Angus Cottrell
8. Amanaki Mafi
9. Will Genia
10. Jack Debreczeni
11. Sefa Naivalu
12 Reece Hodge
13. Tom English
14. Jack Maddocks
15. Dane Haylett-Petty
16. Anaru Rangi
17. Fereti Sa’aga
18. Sam Talakai
19. Sam Jeffries
20. Ross Haylett-Petty
21. Michael Ruru
22. Semisi Tupou
23. Billy Meakes

Queensland Reds
1.  James Slipper
2. Brandon Paenga-Amosa
3. Taniela Tupou
4. Izack Rodda
5. Lukhan Tui
6. Caleb Timu
7. Adam Korczyk
8. Scott Higginbotham (c)
9. James Tuttle
10. Jono Lance
11. Eto Nabuli
12. Duncan Paia’aua
13. Samu Kerevi
14. Chris Feauai-Sautia
15. Aidan Toua
16. Alex Mafi
17. JP Smith
18. Sef Fa’agase
19. Kane Douglas
20. Liam Wright
21. Tate McDermott
22. Hamish Stewart
23. Filipo Daugunu

Match Details

Rebels v Reds at AAMI Park Melbourne

Friday 23rd February 7:45pm AEDT, 6:45pm AEST

Referee: Brendan Pickerill

Assistant Referees: Nic Berry and Jordan Way

TMO: Ian Smith



  • onlinesideline

    bloody hell thats a decent rebels line up and from 1-23 too

    gonna be some free flowing footy this seasom me thinks

    lets tickle some kiwis this year

  • Mr Wobbly

    So excited to be going to the footy tonight. I think I peed a little bit reading this :)

    Then I noticed the referee is Mr Pickerill… :(

    • idiot savant

      Oh no, not the ref with the humour bypass. I think we can expect lots of stoppages, penalties and some coloured cards. Advantage Rebels with Hodge’s long place kicking game.

    • GoMelbRebels

      It happens to all of us as we get older. Don’t be ashamed. Same, didn’t think we would get this opportunity during parts of last year.

  • Pedro

    Fairly evenly matched, really looking forward to the tight five battle.

    I think the rebels will have this, I think the reds are just as cobwebbed as the home team. Rebs by 9

  • Mica

    Posted on wrong article – oops

  • Kevino

    Merry xmas rugby fans.

    Think the difference will be 16-23 in this match. If the game is tight with 20 minutes to go the experience on the bench should get the Rebels over the line. (Hopefully)

    Alot of players on both sides with points to prove, looking forward to Higgers v Mafi. Still worried with the Rebels line out, not sure about Cottrells jumping so we could be under the pump in the set piece.

  • As much as I’d like to say the Reds will win I just can’t see it when comparing the two sides on paper. The Reds perhaps have a slight edge in the tight 5, 10 and at 13 but at every other position the Rebels are better. Rebels by 8.

  • Hoss

    Rebels just – due to Genia v Tuttle. Love the look of both packs.

  • juswal

    Thanks for the rundown, Scott.

    Two very good 23s. I don’t mind about the result; I just hope they are all fit and play to a plan.

  • GoMelbRebels

    Thanks for the preview Scooter! I can’t pick it. Obviously want the Rebels to win but trial form makes me worried (despite trial games not counting). We can only really go off what’s on paper for round 1 (round 2 technically). Both teams will be rusty, so it could be a dour affair.

    • Mr Wobbly

      Remember that year when we destroyed all comers in the trials… then came last?

      • GoMelbRebels

        How can I forget. I was so excited that year – plus we destroyed the Cheetahs in our first real match, which just added to the later pain.

    • Bernie Chan

      Wouldn’t sweat on trial form..the Reds haven’t been that flash either. QC gets dropped and we only have Hamish Stewart (n DPA) as flyhalf options. Lance and Lucas get contracted very late despite having been previously considered not good enough to retain…and Lance gets the starting #10? Seems to me that if Stewart was considered so highly that QC got cut out altogether then he should be the flyhalf. Toua is a fine attacker but his defence is fragile. Wish Daugunu got the start in lieu of Nabuli. The Reds pack should do OK though…

  • Khun Pugwash


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