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How Rebels used prop Pone Fa’amausili to prepare for Reds’ Harry Wilson

By AAP
Pone Fa'amausili of the Rebels looks on ahead of the round 13 Super Rugby Pacific match between Highlanders and Melbourne Rebels at Forsyth Barr Stadium, on May 20, 2023, in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Melbourne have used man-mountain Pone Fa’amausili as their own Harry Wilson as they prepare to host Queensland in a top-four Super Rugby Pacific battle on Friday night.

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The tighthead prop has recovered from a hamstring injury but has been unable to force his way into a stacked Rebels pack, which includes fellow Wallabies front-rower and former Red Taniela Tupou.

No.8 Wilson has been a stand-out for Queensland in the opening three rounds, ranked third in the competition for carries and for offloads.

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Melbourne coach Kevin Foote said he had drafted Fa’amausili, who weighs 130kg and stands at 196cm, in at training to replicate danger-man Wilson.

“Pone was our Wilson this week,” Foote said.

“We tasked him with carrying really hard in and around our guys and Pone came at us.

“He’s right there chomping at the bit, but we’ve got a lot of depth in the front row, although I reckon Pone wants to play as a loose forward now.”

While banking wins in their previous two matches, Foote is well aware of the challenge presented by the Queensland pack, who have the best line-out success in the competition and are one of only two sides not to have lost a scrum on their own feed.

Tupou will start the AAMI Park match looking to take the sting out of their opponents, while fellow prop Sam Talakai, lock Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and centre Filipo Daugunu are among a swag of players in the Rebels who have worn the Queensland jersey.

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Foote believed the Rebels were ready to take it to the Reds, who sit one place above on the ladder in third.

“Good teams have a good set piece so I’m really excited for that scrum battle,” Foote said.

“On the flip side, we’re going to use our set piece as a weapon – there’s a lot of belief in that.”

Veteran South African-born halfback Ryan Louwrens has been in sparkling form, resurrecting his partnership this season with Wallabies playmaker Carter Gordon.

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They are set for a match-up against Test No.9 Tate McDermott and teenage five-eighth Harry McLaughlin-Phillips, who is making his starting debut.

“Obviously it was pretty tough for him in the World Cup, but he’s taken on more of a leadership role as well since he’s come back,” Louwrens said of 23-year-old Gordon.

“He’s very confident now speaking in front of the whole group … I just can tell this year he’s just carrying himself really well and he’s very confident.

“If he’s going well, the whole team goes well.”

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