The Brumbies are looking for another win. Image courtesy of couriermail.com.au/Anish Debiky/AFP
Rebels v Brumbies
Friday, March 28 – 6:40pm (AEST)
What did they do last week? The Rebels were on the wrong end of a 32-8 hiding from the Waratahs in Sydney while the Brumbies beat the Stormers 25-15 at Canberra Stadium, extending their winning streak to four matches.
Things you need to know: Rebels coach Tony McGahan has wielded the axe after three-straight losses, making six changes to the starting side. Loosehead prop Toby Smith (concussion) is out, while tighthead Laurie Weeks returns from a head knock. Nic Stirzaker is back from an ankle injury and will start at scrumhalf, with former Wallaby Luke Burgess benched. Jason Woodward returns from a knee injury at full-back while Tom Kingston replaces winger Lachie Mitchell (knee) who is out for the season. The Rebels have managed one victory from their first four games to sit last in the Australian conference and 13th overall.
The Brumbies are sweating on the fitness of Jarrad Buttler who has to pass a concussion test, while Christian Lealiifano (ankle) and Tevita Kuridrani are both available for selection. The Brumbies are 4-1 to start the season. They lead the Australian Conference and are second on the overall ladder.
Reason to watch: Christian Lealiifano had a breakout season in 2013, making his long-awaited Wallabies debut against the British and Irish Lions. He will make his return from ankle surgery this weekend, most likely off the bench, but just having him back on the field will be a big boost for the Brumbies and Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie.
Reason to turn away: If you don't like the sight of blood you might need to cover your eyes in the second half because things could get ugly on the scoreboard if the Rebels don't pick up their act from previous weeks.
Say what: "The next four weeks will give us a really good indication of where we are at individually, and collectively as a group. We have a great opportunity for the group to show off their belief in each other and their spirit, and we're looking forward to seeing that on show starting this Friday night against a very well coached and player-led group from Canberra," – Rebels coach Tony McGahan.
Final instructions: The Rebels won the first ever meeting between these two sides by a point, but it's been all the Brumbies since then. The men from Canberra won both contests last season comfortably and enter Friday's clash as heavy favourites. With a win the Brumbies will equal their club-record winning streak of five games, achieved by the 2000 and 2002 sides. The Rebels have their backs against the wall after three straight losses and should lift, but it won't be enough to beat Stephen Larkham's in-form side.
Brumbies by 15
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