The Brumbies have a new captain to host the Force while Waratahs coach Rob Penney has rung the changes against the high flying Reds.
The Brumbies have a new captain to host the injury-hit Force while Waratahs coach Rob Penney has rung the changes in search of a first Super Rugby AU win against the high flying Reds.
And in Super Rugby Aotearoa, the Highlanders will unleash a Japanese Test star against a struggling Hurricanes side that welcomes back Dane Coles.
SUPER RUGBY AU, ROUND SIX
BRUMBIES vs FORCE, Friday 7.45pm AEDT at GIO Stadium
The Brumbies will have another new captain for their clash with the Force, as halfback Nic White steps up to lead the side in the absence of Tom Cusack.
Loose forward Cusack is out with an injured shoulder while first-choice skipper Allan Alaalatoa remains suspended – leaving White as a very capable third option.
The Wallabies No.9 has captained the Brumbies twice before and becames the club’s youngest skipper in 2013 when he led them as a 22-year-old.
Jahrome Brown returns to the backrow in place of Cusack while Wallabies prop James Slipper has been switched to the tighthead side.
“James is a senior player who prides himself on his detail and wanted to know as soon as possible if he’d be playing at tighthead,” Brumbies coach Dan McKellar said.
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“He’s more than comfortable in that position and happy to do what’s best for the team.
“We’re really looking forward to having Slips back out there on Friday night because he was very good for us at the start of the year.”
Props Fred Kaihea and Sefo Kautai and backrower Rory Scott are also set to make their Brumbies debuts off the bench.
Kaihea and Scott are local products while former Chiefs and New Zealand under-20s representative Kautai has impressed immediately after being a mid-season recruit to Canberra.
“Sefo’s been good since arriving, scrummages well and has good experience at this level,” McKellar said.
“He hasn’t played since November but he’s shown up in really good shape.”
Meanwhile, the Force’s chances of recording an upset have been hurt by injuries to veteran Test backs Rob Kearney and Richard Kahui.
In their place come Jack McGregor and Marcel Brache at fullback and left wing respectively, with coach Tim Sampson describing the changes as “an easy transition.”
Jono Lance is recalled to the matchday 23, while England under-20s recruit Jordan Olowofela is set to make his first appearance for the Force.
“We’ve got to play smart and not allow them to make easy entries into our defensive area,” Sampson said.
“We need to frustrate the Brumbies and make them work hard.
“They like to come out of the blocks quickly, so I’m expecting a high tempo contest throughout.”
BRUMBIES (15-1): Tom Banks, Andy Muirhead, Len Ikitau, Irae Simone, Mack Hansen, Noah Lolesio, Nic White (c), Pete Samu, Jahrome Brown, Rob Valetini, Caderyn Neville, Darcy Swain, James Slipper, Folau Fainga’a, Harry Lloyd
Reserves: Lachlan Lonergan, Fred Kaihea, Sefo Kautai, James Tucker, Rory Scott, Ryan Lonergan, Reesjan Pasitoa, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa
FORCE (15-1): Jack McGregor, Byron Ralston, Tevita Kuridrani, Henry Taefu, Marcel Brache, Jake McIntyre, Tomas Cubelli, Brynard Stander (c), Kane Koteka, Fergus Lee-Warner, Sitaleki Timani, Jeremy Thrush, Greg Holmes, Feleti Kaitu’u, Tom Robertson
Reserves: Jack Winchester, Angus Wagner, Santiago Medrano, Ryan McCauley, Tim Anstee, Ian Prior, Jono Lance, Jordan Olowofela
WARATAHS vs REDS, Saturday 7.45pm AEDT at Stadium Australia
Waratahs coach Rob Penney has made a whopping seven changes to his starting team for what appears on paper as a mission impossibe against the unbeaten Reds in Sydney.
Former Queensland centre Izaia Perese returns from his three-match suspension – picked up in round one against the Reds – to start at inside centre in a real show of faith from Penney.
He will partner Lalakai Foketi in a brand new midfield pairing as captain Alex Newsome slides to the wing and former NRL bruiser Tepai Moeroa out of the 23 altogether.
Injuries to Wallabies loose forwards Jack Dempsey and Lachie Swinton necessitates a reshuffle, as fit-again No.8 Will Harris gets a start and Hugh Sinclair switches from lock to blindside flanker.
That opens up a starting spot for veteran lock Sam Wykes.
Meanwhile, Reds coach Brad Thorn has also tinkered with four starting changes.
Wallabies No.8 Harry Wilson has been handed a ‘finishers’ role this weekend with the versatile Seru Uru getting his shot at the back of the scrum.
Ryan Smith gets his first start at lock ahead of Angus Blyth, Filipo Daugunu returns on the left wing for Ilaisa Droasese and hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa is preferred in the run-on XV to Alex Mafi.
“We’re looking forward to a tough contest against the Waratahs down in Sydney,” Thorn said.
“After a big preseason, Seru has been in some really good form and has earned his opportunity to get a start this week.
“This will be Ryan Smith’s first start in Super Rugby.
“It’s good pay for his constant hard work in our program and his development.
“You’ve also got Sam Wallis and Kalani Thomas on the bench who could make their Super Rugby debuts which is exciting.
“While at the other end, Angus Scott-Young will play his 50th game for Queensland.
“He’s a leader on-and-off the field and as a group, we congratulate him on this achievement.”
WARATAHS (15-1): Jack Maddocks, Alex Newsome (c), Lalakai Foketi, Izaia Perese, James Ramm, Will Harrison, Jack Grant, Will Harris, Carlo Tizzano, Hugh Sinclair, Sam Caird, Sam Wykes, Te Tera Faulkner, Dave Porecki, Harry Johnson-Holmes
Reserves: Tom Horton , Angus Bell, Darcy Breen, Jeremy Williams, Max Douglas, Henry Robertson, Tane Edmed , Mark Nawaqanitawase
REDS (15-1): Jock Campbell, Suliasi Vunivalu, Jordan Petaia, Hunter Paisami, Filipo Daugunu, James O’Connor (c), Tate McDermott, Seru Uru, Fraser McReight, Angus Scott-Young, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Ryan Smith, Taniela Tupou, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Dane Zander
Reserves: Alex Mafi, Richie Asiata, Zane Nonggorr, Harry Wilson, Sam Wallis, Kalani Thomas, Hamish Stewart, Bryce Hegarty
SUPER RUGBY AOTEAROA, ROUND FIVE
HIGHLANDERS vs HURRICANES, Friday 5.05pm AEDT at Forsyth Barr Stadium
Highlanders coach Tony Brown has handed a debut to delightfully named winger Freedom Vahaakolo against the winless Hurricanes in Dunedin.
“He’s a power athlete,” Brown told reporters.
“We’ve got some speed out wide but we don’t have a lot of power.
“We’re hoping that he’s going to give us that physicality.
“He’s got plenty of X factor.”
Brown has also moved Josh Ioane to fullback and handed the more conservative Mitch Hunt a start at five-eighth.
And Japanese Test star Kazuki Himeno is in line to make an impact from the bench.
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes welcome back inspirational hooker Dane Coles from injury while coach Jason Holland has dropped winger Julian Savea for Wes Goosen.
Teenage star Ruben Love is an intriguing name to watch off the bench and is capable of playing at fullback or five-eighth.
HIGHLANDERS (15-1): Josh Ioane, Freedom Vahaakolo, Michael Collins, Sio Tomkinson, Jona Nareki, Mitch Hunt, Aaron Smith (co-c), Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, Billy Harmon, Shannon Frizell, Pari Pari Parkinson, Bryn Evans, Siate Tokolahi, Ash Dixon (co-c), Ethan de Groot
Reserves: Liam Coltman, Ayden Johnstone, Josh Hohneck, Josh Dickson, Kazuki Himeno, Folau Fakatava, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Connor Garden-Bachop
HURRICANES (15-1): Jordie Barrett, Wes Goosen, Billy Proctor, Ngani Laumape, Salesi Rayasi, Orbyn Leger, Luke Campbell, Ardie Savea (c), Du’Plessis Kirifi, Reed Prinsep, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Scott Scrafton, Tyrel Lomax, Dane Coles, Xavier Numia
Reserves: Ricky Riccitelli, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Tevita Mafileo, Liam Mitchell, Devan Flanders, Jonathan Taumateine, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Ruben Love
CHIEFS vs BLUES, Saturday 5.05pm AEDT at FMG Stadium Waikato
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