Ewen McKenzie has Rebels recruits in mind
ESPN Staff
January 23, 2014
The Chiefs' Toby Smith runs at Christian Leali'ifano, Chiefs v Brumbies, Super Rugby, Super Rugby final, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, August 3, 2013
Toby Smith is the only Super Rugby championship-winning player on the Rebels' roster © Getty Images

Ewen McKenzie has Australian-born New Zealander Toby Smith and London-born Max Lahiff on his Wallabies radar, watching the two new Melbourne Rebels loose-head props closely at training.

Smith was born in Townsville while Lahiff 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," McKenzie said. "These sort of guys are probably less known in the Australian public but have done good things. 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, for whom he was a member of their Super Rugby title-winning teams in 2012 and 2013. Lahiff, nicknamed "The Beef", meanwhile played four years with London Irish.

McKenzie said Smith and Lahiff would add grunt to the Rebels' pack, saying the team was well positioned to improve on their five wins of the 2013 campaign.

Hawke's Bay's Max Lahiff busts the Otago defence, Otago v Hawke's Bay, ITM Cup, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, October 20, 2013
Max Lahiff arrived in Australia via Hawke's Bay Magpies © Getty Images

"Attack-wise they had some really bright moments in the season; defence probably wasn't as good as they wanted but defence is [coach Tony McGahan's] 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."

Smith said he was "doing what my folks did in moving to Australia for a new challenge and something new and different".

"They spent about two years over here in the late 1980's, which was when I was born, so it's good to follow suit.

"Moving back to Australia, the goal one day is to be a Wallaby. However, initially my goal is to just prove myself to my team-mates and our members here at the Rebels in my new environment; I'm not getting ahead of myself with my thinking. First and foremost, I want to get into the playing 23 and then try and score a starting spot."

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