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Ex-All Black set to debut for Rebels after 'deflating' first round loss

By AAP
Carter Gordon of the Rebels reacts after the Rebels loss to the Brumbies during the round one Super Rugby Pacific match between Melbourne Rebels and ACT Brumbies at AAMI Park, on February 23, 2024, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

Melbourne believe the Western Force would have circled their Super Round rugby clash on Friday night as a must-win, as both teams look to rebound from disappointing opening losses.

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The Rebels were awful in a 30-3 round-one defeat to the ACT Brumbies while the Force weren’t a lot better, falling 44-14 to the Hurricanes.

The sides clash as part of the competition’s annual Super Round at AAMI Park, with all 12 teams playing over three days at the Melbourne venue.

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Of the Australian teams, the NSW Waratahs and Crusaders square off on Saturday night while the ACT Brumbies and Chiefs meet Sunday afternoon and will be followed by the Reds and Hurricanes.

Rebels attack coach Tim Sampson described their performance against the Brumbies as “deflating” after two strong pre-season showings.

“After the build-up through the pre-season into round one, first home game, it was pretty deflating,” Sampson told AAP.

“How we performed it was well below our expectations and it was across the board in every area of the game.

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“We were very average with a lot of mistakes and poor decision-making.”

Turnovers

8
Turnovers Won
7
19
Turnovers Lost
15

He said some of the match statistics made for positive reading like 42 defenders beaten and 17 entries into the opposition 22, but they frustratingly failed to convert those opportunities into tries.

Sampson said their faltering line-out, kicking game and handling errors all contributed to the ugly scoreline.

He refused to blame their off-field woes – the financially-stricken club appear headed for closure after this season – for their display but said club psychologist Andrew Waterson would be working closely with the players this week.

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Formerly head coach of the Force, Sampson said the Perth club would not have been happy with their own performance and must be fancying their chances against the Rebels, whom they finished above on the 2023 ladder.

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“Coming on their home pitch where they pride themselves on winning, they were quite successful there last year winning five of the six games at home,” he said.

“They will be looking to rebound as well as they’re in a very similar situation to us and I’m sure they’ve circled this game, putting it in their calendar a while ago.”

The Rebels aren’t expected to make many line-up changes apart from the inclusion of new signing, one-Test All Black Matt Proctor in the centres.

The Force will be without prop Marley Pearce, who was on Tuesday suspended for four weeks for a high tackle during the Hurricanes match.

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