Friday night’s clash against the Waratahs will be one of the biggest in Rebels’ history, acting captain Tom English says.
A win against the Waratahs in Melbourne on Friday night, the Rebels’ final home game of the season, would put them on top of the conference ladder with two matches to go.
It’s a spot the Rebels have rarely found themselves in since 2011, never having made the finals and English said it certainly felt like a bigger game than many they’ve been in before.
“I think we've never really been in a position like this before, sitting like this on the ladder,” he said.
“I think local derbies are really special, you're playing against guys that you know, you grew up playing with, that you played in rep teams with.
“There's a lot of energy and there's no love lost out there when you're standing opposite each other, so really looking forward to it.”
The Rebels let a lead slip when the sides met earlier this season, and English said the clash was a critical lesson for the Melbourne side.
“I think that game was a key learning point for us in the season, we have to understand we have to be on for the full 80 minutes, you can't just expect to get a couple of tries early and hold on,” he said.
“For us, it's about always chasing to get better and chasing for points instead of locking up shop and trying to hold out a game.”
The Rebels will be missing Will Genia again, as well as usual skipper Adam Coleman but English said they had
“The beautiful thing about the squad we have at the moment is a lot of depth and that's all across the board ," he said.
"Particularly for Michael, he's a player that could be starting at another province and he's stuck behind Willy here, so all the boys have full confidence in his ability and he's shown that the last couple of games, where he's had to play."
There is still a question mark over Israel Folau’s inclusion in the Waratahs, with the fullback to face an appeal hearing on Thursday night, but English said they were preparing to face off against Folau.
“Probably changes the way they approach the game,” he said.
“For us we just have to prep as if he's playing and if he isn't that's a bonus.
“But for us we're prepping as if Izzy's going to play.
“He's a class player and he really turns the tide for them. We're just prepping as if he's going to be running out with the 15 on his back.”
The Rebels host the Waratahs at AAMI Park on Friday night, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO.