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‘Need to focus’: Rebels ready for ‘massive’ clash with Moana

By AAP
(Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

Melbourne can’t afford to fail against Moana Pasifika in Auckland if they want to play Super Rugby Pacific finals, with the high-flying Brumbies laying in wait.

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The Rebels take on last-placed Moana on Saturday at Mt Smart Stadium with the home side bolstered by the return of their captain, former Wallabies playmaker Christian Lealiifano.

The five-eighth, who hasn’t played since round five, has been rushed back into the starting line-up as Moana Pasifika hunt their first win of the season.

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“It’s great to have Christian back in the starting XV, as his experience and calmness under pressure are invaluable to our team,” said coach Aaron Mauger.

Melbourne themselves only have two wins from eight games but are only three points outside the finals-bound top eight.

Rebels No.8, Auckland-born Vaiolini Ekuasi, said his team was aware of the importance of a win against Moana.

They next host a huge task against the Brumbies who are Australia’s best-performing team.

“This game and the Brumbies at home will be massive,” Ekuasi said.

“We need to focus on this task and be present and knock over Moana and then get home and start preparing for a strong Brumbies side that we can hopefully knock over too leading into finals.”

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Ekuasi, who has a number of former teammates in the Moana squad from his days playing NPC with Auckland, expected fierce physicality from their opponents.

He hoped the Rebels’ fitness could see them home.

“I’m expecting physicality, big bodies – the message this week is try and make them work twice as hard off the ground, keeping them in rucks longer, hopefully drag them out and our fitness will hopefully show and we can get the result,” said the 21-year-old, who recently extended his contract with Melbourne.

Rebels coach Kevin Foote has made four changes to his squad which were toppled in a second-half surge by the Crusaders last round.

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Auckland-born David Feliuai has replaced Stacey Ili after the inside centre suffered concussion last round.

Angelo Smith has replaced lock Josh Canham in the starting line-up while UK premiership lock Tim Cardall is in line for his Super debut after being named on the bench.

Prop Cabous Eloff has replaced Cameron Orr on the bench while bustling backrower Tamati Ioane could make his first appearance of the year after also been included in the reserves.

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