Rebels ready for test against Super Rugby frontrunners

Tue, Mar 14, 2023, 10:52 PM
Melissa Woods - AAP
by Melissa Woods - AAP
The Waratahs return to Melbourne to face the Rebels who are chasing their first win of the season.

With a spring in their step after cracking their first win of the Super Rugby Pacific season, Melbourne know they will have to lift further to topple the unbeaten Chiefs in Hamilton.

The Rebels, steered by young playmaker Carter Gordon, overcame the NSW Waratahs last round by seven points.

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Teammate Stacey Ili said Gordon's early season form could make the 22-year-old a surprise challenger for the Wallabies' World Cup campaign later this year.

"Carter is coming along quite well this year," the 31-year-old Kiwi centre said on Tuesday.

"He might be a bolter for the Wallabies if he carries on like that, the sky's the limit for that guy."

Ili was also a massive contributor to the win over the Waratahs with 13 carries - the most from either team.

He said new attack coach Tim Sampson, who joined the Rebels from the Force, had given the team freedom to play what they see.

"He gives us confidence and allows us to test our skills and play what we see in front instead of sticking to a structure," Ili said.

"He's come full of experience and gets along with the boys and gives us a bit of knowledge about shape and stuff."

After losses to the Western Force and Hurricanes to open Melbourne's season, Ili said the mood was very different at training this week with the Rebels having notched a breakthrough victory.

"The couple of weeks before ... we left points out there," he said.

"We felt deflated after those games, where we probably should have won. So to get that win, coming in on the Monday felt a lot better."

Last season, the Rebels appeared to have victory in the bag against the Chiefs until reserve prop Ollie Norris crashed over at AAMI Park in the 79th minute with the converted try securing a 33-30 victory.

Ili said it wasn't a match they wanted to dwell on, having "squandered" the win.

He said they would use Saturday's game to gauge their Super Rugby status.

"It's an opportunity to see where we are as a team; to test ourselves against the top team who have been playing really well with Brad (Weber) and Damian (McKenzie) driving them around," he said.

"This year is a new challenge and we're up for that."

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