Out with the old and in with the new is the case in Melbourne this season. Stirling Mortlock, with all due respect to the tough-as-nails Wallaby stalwart, was probably the slowest player over 100m in Super 15 2012! But not all that is old is bad. Mark Gerrard with his excellent boot and brain for the game will be sorely missed as will fan favourite Rodzilla in this and other up-coming Super Rugby matches.
The Rebels have many new guns (Shota Horie who on the bench is to become the first ever Japanese player to participate in Super Rugby when he runs out onto the field) that need to perform as they have only made 9 signings to 17 departures. The new-bucks offer some quality even boasting a few internationals such as blind-side flank Scott Higginbotham. Much is required of the new signings if the Rebels are to contest for a playoff spot and this first outing onto the park will be a great indicator as to the potential of this Melbourne side.
Adam Byrnes, Adam Freier (retired), Alister Campbell (retired), Danny Cipriani, Julian Huxley, Lloyd Johansson, Mark Gerrard, Michael Lipman (retired), Rodney Blake (retired), Stirling Mortlock (retired).
Key players gained:
Jason Woodward (Wellington Lions), Pauliasi Manu (Blues), Scott Higginbotham (Reds), Shota Horie (Japan).
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Kieran Longbottom, 18 Phoenix Battye, 19 Richard Brown, 20 Mick Snowden, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Junior Rasolea.
With coach resignation a regular feature, this side from Perth have it all to do in Super 15 2013 now headed by coach Michael Foley (ex Waratahs). Having learnt from his dismal 2012 season and striving to get far better results this time round, Foley is likely to reinvent his coaching style with more focus on achieving greater team unity and imposing a never-say-die attitude throughout the squad as the vector of Waratahs’ failures of 2012 was psychological rather than physical.
Matt Hodgson is to skipper the Force stepping in for David Pocock (now with the Brumbies).
The off-season has proved a spring-tide for the Force in terms of player transfers. 17 squad members out and a long line-up of players in, this Perth side is likely to have a very changed feel to it in 2013.
Anare Koliavu, Ben Seymour, Cameron Shepherd, David Harvey, Elvis Taione, Gene Fairbanks, James Stannard, Joshua Holmes, Justin Turner, Napolioni Nalaga, Oliver Atkins, Rory Sidey, Ruan Smith, Samu Wara.
Key players gained:
Alby Mathewson (Blues), Chris Alcock (Waratahs), Hugh McMeniman (Kubota), Jayden Hayward (Hurricanes), Sam Norton-Knight (Sanyo Wild Knights), Sias Ebersohn (Cheetahs).
Force 46 – Tonga XV 0
Force 18 – Brumbies 20
As we can see, both sides were unsuccessful against Super Rugby opposition in the warm-up fixtures. While the Rebels have impressed in that they stayed in contention (within a score) against the Crusaders and the Hurricanes, the Force have equally impressed by conceding so few points in their warm-up fixtures, also coming within 7 of their Super Rugby opposition, the Brumbies.
Traditionally the opening 4 rounds of Super Rugby are rife with upsets and we urge punters to wait until sides have sufficiently settled before investing large sums of hard-won money on favourites That said, had we a free bet to spend this weekend, we’d probably throw it on the Force with a 6 point head-start.