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Rebels looking to top Australian conference
January 24, 2014
Scott Higginbotham belives the Rebels are ready to be an intimidating force in Super Rugby © Getty Images
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Melbourne Rebels are set for the challenge of winning the Australian Super Rugby conference for the first time, Scott Higginbotham declaring "we are really looking to make inroads".

"We want to be top of the conference," the Rebels captain told Rugby Gold. "We're not looking to just get out there and be tough competition for other teams. We're looking to be top of the competition, and that's our challenge. All the boys are more than willing to put their hand up and have a go at that."

The Rebels enjoyed their best season in Super Rugby when they finished 12th on the ladder last season, but their campaign was blighted by the notorious Durban bus affair and by off-field incident involving now-departed Wallabies Kurtley Beale and James O'Connor. Their season was marked by plenty of attacking intent that resulted in them scoring 44 tries - a tally topped only by the Chiefs and New South Wales Waratahs - but their defence was appalling in conceding 65, a record worse than all bar the bottom-of-the-log Southern Kings.

The Rebels appointed Tony McGahan as coach for this season, a man known for his defensive structures, and Higginbotham said mediocrity simply would not be tolerated in 2014.

"You don't want to be one of those teams that start in the comp and struggle to get off the ground," Higginbotham told Rugby Gold. "A bit like the Cheetahs, who are doing well now but took awhile to get off the ground. "The Force are still working their way up the ladder, and they have been in the competition for a number of years. You don't want to take too much time doing that - I think you've really got to make your mark and pick a year to build and get stuck into it."

Higginbotham said the Rebels had enjoyed a strong pre-season, with only four players not taking part in full training, adding to his confidence for the coming campaign.

"We didn't have any Wallabies go away this season, which is disappointing," he said. "But the positive of that is we have had a full 14-week pre-season to all train and gel together. A lot of training has been about playing 15-on-15 football, so it's great to have those sort of numbers."

© AAP
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