Match Preview: Rebels v Waratahs. Finally! – Green and Gold Rugby
Melbourne Rebels

Match Preview: Rebels v Waratahs. Finally!

Match Preview: Rebels v Waratahs. Finally!

Super Rugby makes its much anticipated leap into the self-proclaimed ‘sporting capital of Australia’ this Friday night as the Melbourne Rebels take on the NSW Waratahs at AAMI Park. For the loyalists in Victoria, this is a debut five years overdue and should result in a packed house.

For the rest of Australia it is a chance to see whether Rod MacQueen can weave his magic again fifteen years after he conjured up a first up Super 12 win for the Brumbies over Transvaal.

The trouble for both teams has been the impact of injury on their respective outfits. Normally this is the type of problem coaches anticipate for later in the season, but Chris Hickey and MacQueen have had their pre-season hampered due to the unavailability of key players.

The Tahs originally named a 25 man squad for this game, however with Wycliff Palu a confirmed non-starter, we are now down to 24. The confirmed team now has Rob Horne starting with Fat Cat Robinson making his return from the bench.

Big Cliffy missed much of last season, so the side itself remains pretty settled.  Chris Hickey has noted the strength of the Rebel set piece so with Palu out injured, he is likely to pick Ben Mowen at 8 with David Dennis starting at blindside flanker. This gives the Tahs 4 legitimate jumpers to go with their questionable thrower.

The Waratahs were the best Australian team in the Super 14 last year, and have been the leading Australian province for some seasons now.  Whilst I don’t believe they are one cohesive unit just yet (most notably in the centres and halves), they have a number of smaller combinations that are up there with the best in the comp, if not the best.

A back three of Drew Mitchell, Kurtley Beale and Lachlan Turner is terrifying for opposition coaches. How do you coach against that!? Similarly the front row of Benn Robinson (likely to return from injury via the bench), Tatafu Polota-Nau and Al Baxter are as established as any in the tournament whilst Dean Mumm and Kane Douglas developed into an effective lock combo in 2010.

For the Rebels, though, the combination is just not there. Centres Mortlock and Cooper Vuna look dangerous on paper, but the fact that league recruit Vuna has played basically the same amount of rugby as Stirlo has over the last six months, is concerning.

Julian Huxley at fullback hasn’t played much of the pre-season, and is nothing more than ‘safe’ at the back. Don’t expect to see any Beale-esque counters if Huxley is involved. At flyhalf Jimmy Hilgendorf has snagged the flyhalf spot from the much-hyped Danny Cipriani, whilst veteran Sam Cordingley will play scrumhalf.

It’s an all-international backrow for the Rebels with Welshman Gareth Delve joining pommy Michael Lipman and Kiwi Hoani Macdonald. In fact the only Aussies in the pack are lock Adam Byrnes and prop Nic Henderson – not fantastic for our depth development.

As for how the teams’ approach the game, well I expect the Waratahs to definitely look to use the ball, and specifically their back three. But it won’t be all out attack. With Berrick Barnes still leading the way, I’d suggest it will be a conservative beginning to the match.

As for the Rebels, it’s anyone’s guess. I suspect they will play a confrontational style of footy,based upon using the size they have in their mid-field and backrow. Whether MacQueen has any innovative approach to how rugby should be played in this new era, we will have to wait and see. I’d suggest, the Rebels too will be conservative early as well, as they seek to gain confidence and combination.


Rebels: 15 Julian Huxley, 14 Lachlan Mitchell, 13 Stirling Mortlock [c], 12 Cooper Vuna, 11 Luke Rooney, 10 James Hilgendorf, 9 Sam Cordingley, 8 Gareth Delve, 7 Michael Lipman, 6 Hoani Macdonald, 5 Kevin O’Neill, 4 Adam Byrnes, 3 Greg Sommerville , 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson. 16 Heath Tessman, 17 Laurie Weeks , 18 Alister Campbell, 19 Jarrod Saffy, 20 Nick Phipps, 21 Danny Cipriani, 22 Afusipa Taumoepeau.

Waratahs15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Lachlan Turner, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Phil Waugh, 6 David Dennis, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Al Baxter, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Sekope Kepu. 16 Damien Fitzpatrick, 17 Benn Robinson, 18 Sitaleki Timani, 19 Chris Alcock, 20 Brendan McKibbin, 21 Daniel Halangahu, 22 Ryan Cross.

Players to Watch: From the Tahs, Kurtley Beale announced himself as one of the most exciting players in the world last year, after finally settling into the fullback spot. The Rebels kick and chase game will have to be inch perfect to nullify his magic. With Palu out it is now the Rebels who have the power man at 8, with vice-captain and Welsh International Gareth Delve packing down at the back of the Rebels scrum. Delve will be central to most Rebels plays and his go-forward, in conjuncture with his centres, will be central to the team’s game plan.



Key Match Up: The men in the 12 jerseys, Tom Carter and Cooper Vuna. Judging from his trial form, much of the Rebel attack will be reliant on Vuna. You would never suggest the same about Carter. Carter will love the physicality of this challenge and will take it up to the inexperience Vuna in attack and defence. How Cooper copes with such pressure could go a long way to determining the outcome of the game.


My Tip: I think the Tahs will do the business this game. Too professional and cohesive for the Rebels at this stage. It won’t be a completely polished performance by NSW, but class will get them across the line in the end. TAHS BY 12

Date :Friday 18 February
Venue : Melbourne
Kick Off local: 19:40
Referee: Mark Lawrence
Assistant Ref 1:Jonathan Kaplan
Assistant Ref 2:Nathan Pearce
TMO : Matt Goddard

  • RugbyFuture

    nice. excited.

    • Bobas

      You must be a tah fan if you’re excited for this as McQueen is flying the white flag naming Cordingly and Hilgendorf as the starting halves.

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  • Concur on most points.

    Attack hasn’t been concentrated on Vuna though, he’s just made the most of his opportunities.

    Would love a Rebels win, but think a 5-10 point loss is on the cards.

    Watch out for O’Neill, Lachie Mitchell, and Sipa to make impacts.

  • Bobas

    Hilgendorf and Cordingly I’m disappointed, the rebels have better super back-line options…

    The Tahs will win this easy Mortlock on Vuna wont touch the ball enough to keep the Rebels in the match.

    Lets see how many loses it takes before Saffy, Cipri, Gerrard and Kingi are fast tracked into the starting XV…

    • Bobas

      and how the hell is laurie weeks on the bench?

      • Andrew

        I’d pick Greg Somerville over Laurie Weeks any day of the year. 66 caps for the AB’s over Weekes 1 or 2 for Australian Barbarians, c’mon…

        In any event the number of injuries they suffer will necessitate the above guys getting a run early in the year. I’m looking forward to the centre pairing contest and think Mortlock might just have enough mongrel left in his old bones to rattle Horne, at least until Horne stumbles off with another injury.

        • I think most people would have Somerville there. But at LHP with Weeks at THP and Henderson on the bench.

  • Dumbledore

    Nice write up, agree on pretty much everything, I’m tipping the same margin. Some of the Rebels selections are, for mine, just wrong – starting Mitchell on the wing is madness. He was ruthlessly and brutally exposed by Guildford and Maitland in the trial, absolutely no reason why Beale and Schmoo won’t do the same. They really look to be playing safety first, I just don’t think that’s going to be enough to win against most teams – let alone the Tahs. Kingi and Cipriani should be the starting halves without a doubt.

    • Patrick

      Agree a bit too safe, I would have preferred Phipps, Cipriani and du Plessis to all get a go, as well as perhaps Sifa.

      I think with Gerrard out (or not yet ‘in’, whichever way it is) then Huxley is the only option at fb for this game.

  • Bobas

    can James Hilgendorf wear number 101 instead of 10 so we don’t insult people like Larkham, Spencer, Mertens, Cooper, Steyn, Barnes and basically every other current or former super rugby number 10?

  • Dumbledore

    Would be greatly appreciated if he did. Also, I’d just like to quickly point out that Melbourne is the internationally proclaimed world’s best sporting city.

    • wilful

      True dat!

      Speaking as a rebels fan, I don’t have high hopes at this stage. But I have got to say, second guess McQueen’s selections is a bit of a brave move by some of you, since you haven’t seen anything like what he’s seen of these players form.

      • thanks for the link saying Singapore is the worlds best sports city!

        • Pedro

          Singapore is the most sporting city, that is they let others win.

        • wilful

          Links 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8 an 9 all say Melbourne, yet you manage to extract Singapore from that? let me guess, you’re a forward.

        • look at the dates wilful. Melbourne 2009, Singapore 2010!

        • wilful

          That’s just some moronic nobody award, which is shifted around each year. Nobody would actually think to compare the Singapore National Stadium or the unbuilt Singapore Sports Hub with the MCG.

  • Robson

    Well the one thing the Tahs have in their favour is that they are all settled and have played together before – many, many times. There will be a lack of cohesion in the Rebels play for a little while – maybe not long – but it is inevitable to start with. The critical thing the Rebels will need to come to grips with is translating what they have done on the training paddock to the game day (night). If they can remain free of injuries it may not take them too long to do that. Hell they might have even accomplished it by halftime. Don’t think so though.

  • Bones

    I just went through the packs in detail and I actually prefer the Rebels. Especially the back rows.

    If the Rebels can avoid leaking too many tries to the
    Tahs back 3, they will win.

    Also playing Haoni at 6 is a surprise isn’t it?

    Looks like they are going to play the sidelines, hammer the tahs lineout and starve the Tahs backs of possession.

  • Bones

    I’m pretty sure Dean Mumm was not on McQueen’s recruitment list, most especially not as a lock.

  • Bones

    Last comment. Huxley before he fell ill, did have a classy knack of arriving I’m the backline at the right moment to glide through a gap. He’s no Gilbert, but I think will threaten the Tahs defence onore than one occasion.

    • Patrick

      Based on what I saw on Sunday when they ran a public 15 on 15 Huxley will be doing just that and distributing to Mortlock and Vuna on the opposite angles. That could be a real handful for Carter and Horne to deal with.

      I am suprised that du Plessis is not starting, this Rebels team could finish quite strongly with the likes of Weeks, du Plessis Cipriani Phipps all coming off the bench.

  • Gnostic

    Nice to see you still pushing the tired old barrow of TPN being an unreliable thrower. The Tahs have consistantly had one of the best lineouts in the comp. You should also have mentioned that Mowen led the competition last year for most lineout steals.

    I cannot see one area where I think the Rebels outclass the Tahs.

    I rate Mowen very highly and I have not seen anything of Delve at this level to judge.

    • Reddy!

      I dunno, I still haven’t seen a full season from TPN that says “I can throw straight everyball” like I have from Moore and even S. Faingaa for that matter.

      GO THE REDS!

  • wobbly

    Not surprised by Hilgendorf starting at flyhalf. Very under-rated player and a much better choice than Cipriani at this stage.

    Cordingly starting is a surprise.

    Not sure what MacQueen sees in Lachlan Mitchell but willing to give him another go. I’m really surprised Betham wasn’t picked.

    Huxley at FB is a really spelling out the game plan though. Never rated him as a player and thankfully the game has moved on from having a purley kicking FB.

    MacQueen has gone for experience in the forwards but I’m surprised Weeks isn’t starting.

    I’m not as confident in the Rebels being competitive with this team as I was watching the Saders trial.

  • wobbly

    And Robinson’s line-out throwing for the Rebels will want to improve 5 million percent from the saders game.

  • Ben

    The weakness in the tahs is Carter….why oh why would you choose him over cross. How many tests has cross played? Going to be very interesting as Vuna is a much better athlete and just as heavy. Horne is also light against Mortlock. Don’t be surprised if there is a shock here, the tags without Palu are a different pack and old heads like Summerville and Delve may give them too much. Also I like Cipriani off the bench. McQueen can see if hilgendorf or 15 is not having great game and slot cips in. Also will let the nerves settle. If Cips is going to blow up it will be in the first 10 of a huge match like this.

    I like an upset.

    • Gnostic

      Cross was worse than poor all last year. Maybe he just didn’t do enough in the trials. I was not sold on him getting signed by the Tahs in the first place.

      As for Horne on Morty, a very even match up if Morty is back to his best, if he isn’t he could be in for a long night if Horne is back to his. Morty will not run over Horne as he did many other centres, Horne is perhaps the best defensive 13 in Oz ATM.

  • kevinsons

    I like an upset as well. How many points is 35K supporters at a debut match worth?

    • wilful

      I think AAMI stadium only seats 29000, but I think they’re quietly expecting a sellout. Which is pretty awesome.

  • Tahzan

    Tahs back 3 definately too classy and tatafro and douglas will bust the line enough to give the backs momentum with the ball. I am excited to see how the melbourne centers perform and surely Reg is on the money with delve also key to their plan. For my mind, the tahs just have too many world cup aspirants this year and though the rebels are experienced, they may on the other hand lack enough serious world cup chasers to push the team through. perhaps the lure of taking a new franchise to a finals series will be enough? ………….. Ihave my doubts…… at least for this game, but here’s hoping for Aussie rugby that it’s not a blow out.

  • Justtacklehim

    Long time reader…first time writer.
    I have nothing insightful to add to this thread but I wanted to say that I am so excited that arguably the greatest rugby competition on the planet starts this week. I cannot believe it is finally here and in a World Cup year. Life does not get much better :)

    • The Rant

      Too right! Keen As!

      I’m based in the northern hemi so you can bet I’ll be jagging work friday morning just to stream this match and get excited for what could well be an amazing year for aussie rugby.

  • chriscullen

    I wish Cipriani was playing , I love jeering pommy tossers.

  • theduke

    I thought Huxley showed a willingness to run the ball when he returned last year – which was surprising. Obviously was just enjoying being out there. He’s no Beale but he could be a more effective runner than is being suggested.

  • Gallagher

    Been counting down the days since the Tahs last game last year! I hope Morto has a cracker of a game with no injuries and Vuna shows up Carter! I think Kingi and Gerrard should have been in this 22, I love how Cips and Weeks are on the bench, keep them as super subs, and they dont need a Cips brain explosion in the first minute that gifts Carter his only try of the season.

    Having said that, thats as far as I’ll go in supporting the Rebels, Tahs will kill em with Mitchell, Beale and Tatafu busting the lines at will. I currently live in the NH and miss the Friday games cause Im normally at work. So Ive used my annual leave to take off every Friday theres an Aus game on! Here’s to three Aus teams making the finals and GO THE REDS!

  • laurent

    First game of the season Tahs v Rebs!! “I just gizzed in my pants”

    Vanu/Carter no contest and could get embarrassing. Why no Cross @ Inside C? I don;t get it &:-(

    Rebels by 3

    • Bobas

      you jizzed your pants?

      maybe you were the target market for those ads for longer lasting sex.

      Something about 30 men on a 600 or so square metres of grass with two goal posts at each end would never even put me in the mood to have an accident like that….

  • laurent

    Oh I forgot RugbyReg to mention Tahs by “12” “Tell’m he’s joking!”

  • Lindommer

    Pffft. Sporting capital of what? I’m here in the sporting capital of the WESTERN WORLD, Wagga Wagga. Passing through as I make my way to Melbourne, the marbles capital of Australia.

    • Bobas

      if chess and synchronised swimming are sports, so is marbles.

    • what’s your tip laurent?

  • AAMI stadium is awesome, and I enjoyed the trial game against the Crusaders even though the Rebels didn’t win. I did notice they were trying a different style cutting up through the middle Channels with Vuna and also Betham looking good on attack.

    Any chance of a Rebel ambush in this game? Maybe they want to bring Cipriani in the game in the 2nd half and change gears once they see what they are playing against, or he could be covering FB as well as 1/5.

    Can’t wait till this Fridays game :) Finally SupeRugby in Melbourne!

  • tommy

    from seeing highlights from the trial games, the rebels just don’t have the structure.. sure they make some half-breaks and the odd good play but that has seemed to be from people’s one outs and their individual skills rather than the result of a well planned move.. the crusaders never perform in trial matches as they have always seemed to just go through the motions before the real season kicks off (and they still managed to win in melbourne doing so)… tahs are looking awesome

    tahs by 50

    • wilful

      Tahs by 50??

      now you’re starting to get towards wagering time… I’d take up anyone who reckons the new south welshers are going to win by that margin.

      Which spurred me to look at prices on betfair. Waratahs $1.45 to win, Rebels $4 ($44 a draw).

      • tommy

        haha almost exactly 50-0!

        no biggie

  • jay-c

    i think having kinghi and cipriani come on late will prove to be the rebels best chance of winning it at the death
    the first half of the first game will be full of mistakes by both teams and the inside back bench option for the rebels will change the game in the second half
    that said… its there only chance- as long as the tahs can play to their combinations they should run away with it

    wow we’ve waited a long time for this!!!!!

    • Bobas

      How late do you think Kingi will come on?

      The guy that couldn’t keep a slowing nearing retirement George Gregan from a starting spot 4 years ago has managed to keep 7’s Champion and Wallaby tourist Phipps out of the starting XV and young but exciting player Kingi out of the squad.

  • Robson

    There is just no way – first time up – that a team that looks good on paper is going to beat a team that looks good on paper and IS good on the paddock. It’s very early days for the Rebels and there is a lot of sand to be sifted yet. If the Rebels do win it will set the cat among the canaries properly. They are going to win some games for sure, but not this one. Mmm that’s probably put the hex on the Tahs now.

  • jay-c

    sorry yeh ur right i was thinkin of kinghi as i wrote that- silly
    yeh phipps and cips to do the damage
    -keen to see what all this hybrid talk is all about-

  • Kaplan is a plonker.

  • col

    Crap rendition of advance.australia fair for live game…. then he sang..,., in historys stage, let every page…????? are you kidding me?… he should be rucked, mauled and then stomped on

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