Rebels won't be distracted from Tahs preparation

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

Rebels centre Billy Meakes says Melbourne will not be affected by the white noise surrounding the Waratahs this week in the fallout from Israel Folau's social media comments.

The Rebels head to Sydney to take on the Tahs in a top-of-the-table clash in the Australian conference on Saturday night .

But Meakes said the Rebels had not spoken about their rivals at all and were unlikely to until later in the week after a brutal dissection of their loss to the Stormers last start.

Coach Dave Wessels said his team had lost the physical battle against the South Africans and Meakes called the effort "embarrassing" in the aftermath of the match.

The Rebels underwent a gruelling review on Monday in a process Meakes said indicated how tight knit the group had become.

"It's obviously always tough coming in after a loss, it's never what you want to do but it's part of the game," he said.

Rebels captain Angus Cottrell (reight) and Will Genia look on from the bench as the Rebels lose their first match in Australia this season. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley

"I think the beauty of the group we've got at the moment is we can be fairly honest with each other and have these really open and honest conversations.

"It's happened a couple of times this year, particularly after the Sharks week (and South African tour) where we've come in on the Monday and been completely transparent and honest around what we're feeling as a group and what we need to get better at."

Given that, the focus was on getting back to work, rather than concentrating on the Waratahs and any issues that may be affecting them.

"We've got the bye afterwards, so regardless of who we were playing this week, we were always going to throw everything into it," Meakes said.

"Obviously playing against the Waratahs, the (teams at the) top of the Australian conference, it's a huge game for us and off the back of that loss it makes it even bigger.

"It's almost one where you need to put that to the back of your mind for the first couple of days at least and then be really diligent your preparation, getting through your review process and then your previews, so having a really good Monday and Tuesday and then towards the back of the week you can start getting emotionally excited for the game.

 

"We haven't spoken about the Waratahs as a team at all today and we probably won't speak about them tomorrow either.

"We'll obviously look at some of their set-piece stuff later in the week and do some preview around that but if we can get exactly what we want to do down pat early in the week then we'll be in good stead to take on the Tahs."

Meakes agreed with Wessels' assessment that a lack of physicality was at the crux of the Rebels' issues against the Stormers.

"It's something in our game that we pride ourselves on and the rest of our game follows off the back of," he said.

"So when we're not bringing that element of our game, then the rest of it doesn't look too good either.

"While it is very disappointing and it felt pretty embarrassing on the night, for us it's a pretty easy fix and something that we're pretty excited to fix up."

Qude Cooper (left) and Billy Meakes reflect after the loss to the Stormers. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley

That alone points to the difference between the Rebels of 2018 and this year's group - one that expects to make the finals and demands excellence, rather than hopes not to be caught by the pack.

"I think there's a genuine sense of belief this year," Meakes said.

"Last year, while we were tracking well early on, deep down, there probably wasn't the same sense of belief that we have this year and I think that's due to the connections we're building off the field.

"We genuinely believe we can beat any team in the competition this year if we play the way we want to play.

"There's definitely a different sense of how we're feeling and it's exciting.

"We're not sitting here going: 'we've got to win a couple more games', we're going: 'let's take it a step further - let's win every game, let's play our best and play finals footy and win this comp'.

"It's a lot different messaging."