Adam Ashley-Cooper could be a handful for Melbourne's outside backs. Image courtesy of dailytelegraph.com.au/Getty Images
At times the Waratahs looked like they might sneak away with their season opener against the Reds last Saturday night, but in reality they looked like a team that will benefit from getting rid of some rust from their game. The 25-17 loss means New South Wales is slightly on the back foot in the race to win the Australian conference, but one thing the ‘Tahs can’t afford to do is drop games to the Melbourne Rebels and Western Force.
The Rebels haven’t won any of their four clashes with New South Wales, and in their two seasons of Super Rugby, they haven’t really even come close. Two beltings in 2011 were followed up by a 16-point defeat at AAMI Park in round 1 last year before the Waratahs won 30-21 at the SFS. It was one of just two home games the ‘Tahs took out in front of their dwindling number of fans during the annus horribilus
that was 2012.
Israel Folau was the highest profile debutant last week, and while he struggled at times with his hands against the Reds, another first-gamer Brendan Volavola showed plenty of class when he came on in the second half, scoring the try that levelled the scores at 17-all before Queensland sealed the deal late. He worked well in partnership with fly-half Bernard Foley, who looked the goods in the No. 10 despite having just over a dozen Super Rugby games to his credit.
The Rebels led the Brumbies by one at halftime in their clash at AAMI Park last Friday night, but injuries took their toll in the second half as the visitors stormed home to win 30-13 . James O’Connor and Scott Higginbotham both suffered head knocks while Kurtley Beale’s shoulder popped in and out when he was making a tackle. Beale has been cleared to play, but skipper Gareth Delve will miss the match with an inflamed shoulder, meaning O'Connor takes over the captaincy duties.
To beat New South Wales, the Rebels will have to vastly improve on last season’s away form. They won just once outside of Melbourne, and that was when they scraped home by a single point against Western Force in Perth. They lost three matches by just five points on the road against the Reds, Lions and Stormers.
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