The Melbourne Rebels are desperate to avoid carrying a losing hangover into their Super Rugby break when they face the Western Force on Sunday.
The Rebels host the struggling Force at AAMI Park in their last match before the June Test window when the Wallabies take on England.
Losing their last three matches to end their hopes of a maiden finals campaign, Melbourne are playing for pride while coach Tony McGahan said they didn’t want to carry a losing feeling into the month-long Test break.
“If you lose the last game of the season or going into a block or a bye, it sort of sits with you for a bit longer,” McGahan said.
“Winning certainly won’t mask over some of the areas we need to get better at, but it certainly gives us a good feeling to get stuck into some really good work during June.”
The Force, who have only managed two wins for the season, are without skipper Matt Hodgson, who dislocated his shoulder against the Blues.
It’s a massive blow for the injury-ravaged team with Hodgson a runaway leader in the entire competition for tackles made, 19 ahead of the Chiefs’ Sam Cane.
Chris Alcock, who hasn’t played since injuring his knee in their round-one loss to the Rebels, will replace Hodgson while Pek Cowan is the new captain.
McGahan said the Force pack was still a challenge and his team would need to lift on their performance in their loss to the Chiefs last round.
“I think their set piece overall is quite strong, he said.
“They’ve got a good scrum, a good lineout, a good maul and it’s the basis of most of their attack and the basis of most of their defence.
“We’ve got a big job in the forwards again this week to make sure we step up there and put our own stamp on what we need to do.”
McGahan last week described his team’s lack of physicality in the opening half against the Chiefs as “embarrassing” and said it had been a focus this week.
He also made some changes to the the forward pack, recalling Cruze Ah Nau, Luke Jones and the hard-hitting Jordy Reid.
“It has been addressed pretty much every day and it needs to be,” McGahan said.
“It is one of those things that needs to be a key tenant of what you bring every week; it’s not something that you have a choice of bringing or not bringing.”