Rebels in selection shake-up
Thu, 06 Mar 2014 22:10
Franchise must embrace full squad
Rebels coach Tony McGahan surprised by making six changes to his starting line-up for Saturday's Super Rugby clash with the Western Force in Perth.
Max Lahiff is named for his first Melbourne Rebels start alongside Pat Leafa and Paul Alo-Emile in a new-look front row, while third-year Rebel Cadeyrn Neville replaces Luke Jones in the second row.
Former Brumby Colby Fainga'a and former Waratah Tom Kingston are also named for their first Rebels starts, after cameos off the bench against the Cheetahs last week, while Angus Roberts replaces Bryce Hegarty at flyhalf.
Japanese International Shota Horie is named in the matchday squad for the first time this season, while back row forward Lopeti Timani is also named on the interchange and is a chance to make his Rebels debut.
McGahan is pleased with the depth of the squad, and believes that the inclusions into the forward pack have earned their opportunity.
"We are very lucky at the franchise that we have a very strong front row," he said.
"We need to continue the competition there, with all of those guys playing very well throughout the pre-season and last week against the Cheetahs.
"This week, we swap them around and Max and Paul get the opportunity to start. We also have Cruze Ah-Nau and Eddie Aholelei waiting in the wings and eager to play, so we are delighted with the quality of the props that we have at this stage.
"Cadeyrn Neville and Colby Fainga'a both had strong pre-seasons and trained exceptionally well, with huge improvement across all facets of their game. Those two were really clear contributors last week when they came off the bench, so we're looking forward to see what they can deliver when they start this week."
McGahan is also looking forward to seeing Kingston make his first Rebels start. While praising Lachlan Mitchell, who drops to the bench this week, for a strong performance against the Cheetahs, the Head Coach wants Kingston to play his own game rather than try and emulate Mitchell.
"One thing we know about Tom is that he is a real athlete, and he possesses tremendous speed and tremendous endurance,"
McGahan explained. "He is a real out-and-out finisher, and he will give us a really clear dimension around how we want to play this weekend. Lachlan Mitchell was a really good contributor last week and cleaned up a lot defensively and at the breakdown; he was very strong at the edge. Tom is a different player, but we are looking for him to bring his own way of doing things into the side this week."
Rebels' Captain Scott Higginbotham is looking forward to seeing Fainga'a make an impact from the opening minutes of the match, and is looking forward to seeing Roberts team up with Luke Burgess as part of a new halves combination.
"Colby's very good on the ball, and being in the starting line-up gives him a good chance to feel his way into the game," Higginbotham said. "He's a good ball runner, and he has all the skills and attributes to be a great back row forward; it will be fantastic to have him out there.
"Luke has the experience under his belt to gel with any quality flyhalf. He's a fantastic scrumhalf, and 'Gussy' will be very excited to play some footy from the opening minute. This is an opportunity that I am sure he is keen to make the most of."
McGahan believe that the franchise needs to embrace their full squad, and keep all the players connected and hungry.
"We want to keep the squad connected and give blokes the opportunity to play," McGahan said. "It's a great chance to get guys involved in the competition early, and give them connection to the competition and to the group. Shota Horie, for example has only recently arrived from Japan and we need to see what he can deliver.
"The coaches are still finding out about the players; we can do as much training as we like, but we really need to see them in game situations and it is a really good opportunity for us to continue our development and growth as a squad. You need a full squad to do well in this competition; it's not going to be up to fifteen or twenty guys to get us through all of our Super Rugby games. We are only ever going to be as strong as the bottom end of the group, so we need to make sure everybody is reaching and going forward."
Western Force: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Junior Rasolea, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (captain), 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacement: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Adam Coleman, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Zack Holmes, 23 Marcel Brache.
Rebels: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Tom Kingston, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Tom English, 10 Angus Roberts, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Scott Higginbotham (captain), 7 Colby Fainga'a, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Max Lahiff.
Replacements: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Toby Smith, 18 Laurie Weeks, 19 Luke Jones, 20 Lopeti Timani, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Bryce Hegarty, 23 Lachlan Mitchell.
Date: Saturday, March 8
Venue: nib Stadium, Perth
Kick-off: 16.40 (08.40 GMT; 19.40 ACT time)
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Ian Smith (Australia), Ed Martin (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)
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