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Rebels duo on the list

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Friday, January 24, 2014

MELBOURNE - Australian born Kiwi Toby Smith and Brit Max Lahiff are on the radar of Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie.

The Test coach has been at Melbourne Rebels training and kept a keen eye on the two new loosehead props in the Super Rugby side.

Smith was born in Townsville while Lahiff, who was born in London, qualifies for the Wallabies through his Australian father.

"It starts up front for me and I'm interested in Max Lahiff coming here and Toby Smith; these sort of guys are probably less known in the Australian public but have done good things," McKenzie said.

"I've followed them closely so there's some quality and experience up front in Melbourne."

Smith, 25, joined the Rebels after four years with the Chiefs and was part of their Super title-winning teams in 2012 and 2013.

With a nickname of "The Beef", 24-year-old Lahiff played four years with UK club London Irish.

McKenzie thought the Rebels were on track to improve their record of five wins in 2013, which left them 12th on the ladder, and felt Smith and Lahiff would add grunt to their pack.

"Attack-wise they had some really bright moments in the season; defence probably wasn't as good as they wanted but defence is Tony's (coach Tony McGahan) speciality so you'd expect some significant change there.

"If they keep the same spirit in attack and improve their defence they're going to be far more competitive in those tight moments.

"The new faces up front in Smith and Lahiff I think will add a bit of starch and experience."

McKenzie said he had been in recent contact with former Rebels back James O'Connor, who is playing with London Irish after losing his Wallabies contract for a series of off-field misdemeanours.