Melbourne Rebels coach Tony McGahan is expecting their Good Friday clash with the Queensland Reds to have Test match intensity as Wallabies jerseys and Super Rugby seasons go on the line.
The Rebels (2-4) host the Reds (1-5) at AAMI Park with the gap widening on them and the two Australian conference front-runners the Brumbies and NSW.
A number of players are going head-to-head after spending three days together in a Wallabies camp in Brisbane for World Cup hopefuls, with the Reds supplying 11 and the Rebels five.
With that kind of representation, McGahan is expecting the Reds to play better than their win-loss record suggests.
“The Reds and the team that they’ll put on the park is gearing it as a Test match,” McGahan said.
“Everyone is dangerous at this point and has different motivations to play well at this point.
“You’ve got two sides who are going to be slugging it out.”
The Rebels are coming off a heavy loss to the Hurricanes, despite leading the unbeaten competition pace-setters at halftime.
McGahan said despite the score-line blowing out in the final three minutes, there were some positives from the match.
“Our ball retention is a positive but again it was our transition from attack to defence that really hurt us,” he said.
“We went from hot on attack inside the 22 to seven points down the other end.
“The lack of experience is really hurting us in key moments.”
Melbourne halfback Nic Stirzaker said he was eager to measure himself against Will Genia, who he rated as one of the world’s best.
“I’m really looking forward to playing against someone of his quality,” Stirzaker said.
Melbourne haven’t cracked a win at home this season and Stirzaker said it was important for their fans as well as themselves.
Melbourne have lost prop Laurie Weeks for at least six weeks with a leg fracture while Queensland have rugby convert Karmichael Hunt and Wallaby Liam Gill returning from suspension.