TEAM NEWS: Wessels wants Rebels to be "confrontational" against Sunwolves

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Rebels coach Dave Wessels has named one of his strongest sides to take on the Sunwolves in a clash he considers more significant than most.

Wessels has made just one change to his starting team from the side that beat the Reds 32-13 in Brisbane last weekend with Jermaine Ainsley replacing Sam Talakai.

The retention of Luke Jones at six and the addition of Ross Haylett-Petty on the bench gives the Rebels pack a super-sized look and while Wessels said he wanted his side to take it right to the Sunwolves.

"One of the things we want to do in our game is be confrontational," he said.

"A big part of rugby is go forward and we feel like those players can give us that, both attack and defence.

"Then the reason we've got Ross Haylett-Petty on the bench is just to provide even more competition for the back row because Ross can cover lock and back row so there's an opportunity for us to potentially change two backrowers in the game or a lock with Luke Jones also having the ability to move into the second row."

Though Wessels admitted there was a fine balance in aggression against a team with Super Rugby's most accurate kicker on the other side, he said they couldn't shy away from that area of the game.

"He's a freak, but I think the reality is rugby's a contact sport and I think one of the things we were disappointed in in our performance against the Sharks is we went away from that real basic cornerstone of the game," he said.

"So, it doesn't matter what our plans, what we're trying to do strategically or tactically during a game, we've got to make sure that very basic thing is in place."

Pone Faamausili comes onto the bench as the reserve tighthead for the Sunwolves, while former NSW hooker Hugh Roach will make his club debut off the bench and rookie back Semisi Tupou has also been named for his first outing of 2019, coming off the bench.

The inclusion of players like Tupou and Faamausili is part of a broader strategy, Wessels said, to slowly introduce youngsters into the pressure cooker of Super Rugby rather than having to throw them in the deep end in seasons to come.

"What we're trying to do as well, particularly to those guys who are new to Super Rugby is make sure they are getting some sort of exposure on a consistent basis," he said.

"What it's like to travel, what some of the away stadiums look like, all those sort of things because I think over the next year to 18 months those guys are going to be the mainstays of the team and it's important that we bleed those guys in rather than find ourselves one day having to play them all in one go."

The Sunwolves showed their danger with an upset win over the Waratahs in Newcastle last weekend and the Rebels' lineup shows they are well aware of the threats the Japanese side poses.

Last week's win put the Rebels on top of the Australian Super Rugby conference and Wessels said they considered each of their conference clashes twice as significant as any other with the opportunity to put distance between themselves and their closest rivals.

We've really targeted the conference games," he said.

"It's not only do you win but the opposition doesn't win, so they're almost worth double and the Sunwolves are a very good side."

The Rebels know the Sunwolves better than most, having a established a partnership earlier this year and holding scrummaging sessions against each other, and Wessels said the match would be a big test for both sides.

"We know a lot of their coaches and things and their staff," he said.

"I think a lot of people appreciate the type of rugby they try to play as well.

"They play rugby that's fun and has a good attacking feel to it but reality is it's a big game for us. We've got to find some consistency. We were poor against the Sharks, played better last week.

"Got to make sure we maintain that now, that's the big focus for us."

The Sunwolves named their team earlier on Thursday.

The Rebels host the Sunwvolves on Saturday night at AAMI Park, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Kayo and via RADIO. Buy tickets here.


Rebels to face Sunwolves

1. Tetera Faulkner

2. Anaru Rangi

3. Jermaine Ainsley

4. Matt Philip

5. Adam Coleman

6. Luke Jones

7. Angus Cottrell (c)

8. Isi Naisarani

9. Will Genia

10. Quade Cooper

11. Marika Koroibete

12. Billy Meakes

13. Tom English

14. Jack Maddocks

15. Reece Hodge


16. Hugh Roach

17. Matt Gibbon

18. Pone Fa'amausili

19. Ross Haylett-Petty

20. Rob Leota

21 . Michael Ruru

22. Campbell Magnay

23. Semisi Tupou