TEAM NEWS: To'omua, Uelese return for Rebels as Aussie rivals boost confidence for Highlanders trip

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

An Australian rival is fuelling the Rebels' belief as they head to New Zealand to tackle the Highlanders on Friday.

Melbourne assistant coach Kevin Foote said the Brumbies' drought-breaking win against the Chiefs in Hamilton has bolstered the Rebels' belief they too can win across the ditch.

The Rebels welcome back several players for the clash, with Wallabies Matt To'omua and Jordan Uelese  named to return from injury.

"Matty had an awesome game against the Waratahs and showed his leadership," Foote said of To'omua's last game before he was sidelined with a groin injury.

"And really special for Jordan, he's coming back from injury after the World Cup, a big body, really good scrummager, set piece forward, so it's really good depth to be able to add to the squad."

With Anaru Rangi also back in the starting side after resting a few niggles last week, the Rebels will take a strong side to Dunedin, where they will have no fear after the Brumbies' performance.

"Confidence, definitely confidence," Foote said of when asked what they took out of the Brumbies performance.

"They were awesome. The Brumbies had some setbacks, we had setbacks as well with late injuries but the Brumbies really showed some real grit to go over there and listening to what their players said, they really believed that they could go there and do a job.

"They really stuck to it and I think by the end were really convincing winners. For us we want to go to Dunedin as well and keep flying the flag for the Australian Super Rugby franchises and of course Melbourne Rebels."

The Highlanders are sitting at the bottom of the Kiwi conference with just one win from their three games - ironically against the Brumbies - but Foote said they would present a challenge, especially in front of a raucous home crowd full of university students.

"Obviously (there's been) a lot of changes for them as well post-World Cup, a few big names for them have left but I think they bring youth and with youth you bring energy," he said.

"It's under the roof, it's at home, I know the "Zoo" is going to be buzzing, it's the last week of O week so we expect a big crowd in there but that'll also just fill our energy.

"They'll be hurting after the Crusaders loss but I can see them playing a really attractive game going wide to wide so we've got to be up for that."

The home side's ability to play with such width has the potential to expose the Rebels' defence but Foote said they would be ready.

"If you get narrow on them, they will expose you out wide so we've got to be conscious of that and you've also got to be conscious of the trick plays they like to come up with," he said.

"If you switch off for a second they'll probably expose you so we've got to make sure we don't get caught with our pants down there, just make it always expecting something."

The Rebels take on the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Friday, February 28, kicking off at 5:05pm AEDT and broadcast LIVE on Fox Sports, Kayo and via radio.


Rebels to face Highlanders

1. Matt Gibbon

2. Anaru Rangi

3. Jermaine Ainsley

4. Gideon Koegelenberg

5. Matt Philip

6. Angus Cottrel

7. Richard Hardwick

8. Isi Naisarani

9. Ryan Louwrens

10. Matt To'omua

11. Marika Koroibete

12. Bill Meakes

13. Tom English

14. Andrew Kellaway

15. Dane Haylett-Petty


16. Jordan Uelese

17. Cameron Orr

18. Cabous Eloff

19. Ross Haylett-Petty

20. Rob Leota

21. Frank Lomani

22. Michael Wells

23. Andrew Deegan