All Black to lead Force into battle with Brumbies
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: The Western Force will rely on the leadership of an All Black veteran when they face the Brumbies in Super Rugby AU Round Four.
Lock Jeremy Thrush will lead the Force at Leichhardt Oval in Sydney’s inner west this Saturday.
Thrush said he is “excited” to showcase his leadership against a team that boasts a Wallaby fuelled forward pack.
“They have a solid set-piece and they use that platform to spring themselves forward,” Thrush said.
“We’ll have to be pretty tight to defend their line-out and around the way we scrum,” he added.
“Over the last few weeks, we have done pretty well as a forward pack and we’re getting closer in games.
“So that will be another challenge for us, as the Brumbies are the benchmark in Australian rugby.
“It will be awesome to go out there and test ourselves against a team like that.”
The veteran second row forward’s promotion to captain comes as the Force made four changes to their match squad, including the sidelining of regular skipper Ian Prior through injury.
Prior’s place at scrumhalf will be taken by Wallaby Nick Frisby, who joined the Force earlier this month after several seasons in the United Kingdom, most recently with the Glasgow Warriors. In another change to the starting XV, inside centre Henry Taefu is promoted to the starting line-up in place of Nick Jooste, who drops out of the match 23 this week.
Thrush is an experienced campaigner who has previously captained the Hurricanes and has more than 100 Super Rugby caps to his credit.
His leadership from the centre of the pack will be a key factor for the Force against the Brumbies, who so far have two wins from as many starts in the competition.
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Frisby spent five seasons with the Reds, earning 66 Super Rugby caps, before moving to the UK.
Taefu, meanwhile, returns to the starting line-up after being on the bench for the clashes against the Waratahs and the Reds.
He has played a crucial role for the Force over the past two seasons, as well as representing Samoa in the 2019 World Cup, and will add a physical edge in the Force midfield.
There are two changes on the bench where All Black Richard Kahui, who signed for the Force last week, and young prop Tom Sheminant have been brought into the matchday 23.
Kahui, who has spent the past seven years playing in Japan and has 68 previous Super Rugby caps for the Chiefs and the Highlanders, takes Taefu’s place among the reserves as cover at centre or wing.
The 2011 World Cup winner is highly rated by Force director of rugby Matt Hodgson who is eager to see him get his first run in the blue and black.
“It’s not just his on-field exploits that we’re excited about, as his insight and winning mentality are sure to prove invaluable for the entire team,” Hodgson said.
“His knowledge of the game, defensive ability and the level of professionalism he brings to training will be huge for our season.”
Home-grown Nedlands talent Sheminant replaces injured veteran Wallaby prop Greg Holmes, who featured against the Waratahs and the Reds over the past two weeks.
Western Force: 15 Jack McGregor, 14 Byron Ralston, 13 Marcel Brache, 12 Henry Taefu, 11 Brad Lacey, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Brynard Stander, 7 Tevin Ferris, 6 Henry Stowers, 5 Fergus Lee-Warner, 4 Jeremy Thrush (captain), 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Feleti Kaitu’u, 1 Angus Wagner.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Tom Sheminant, 19 Ollie Atkins, 20 Ollie Callan, 21 Jacob Abel, 22 Richard Kahui, 23 Kyle Godwin.
Date: Saturday, July 25
Venue: Leichhardt Oval, Sydney
Kick-off: 19.15 AEST (17.15 AWST; 09.15 GMT)
Referee: Damon Murphy
Assistant referees: Amy Perrett, Angus Gardner
TMO: George Ayoub