Brumbies get Wallaby wing back for Waratahs clash
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Wallabies wing Tom Wright will make his first appearance this year, overcoming a knee injury to start for the Brumbies in their clash with traditional rivals the Waratahs in Sydney on Friday.
Wright is one of three changes to the starting XV from the side that defeated the Western Force in Round Six, with tall-timber Nick Frost earning his first start for the season in the second row and Tom Cusack recovering from a shoulder injury to take his place at openside flank.
After an impressive run-on debut, Harry Lloyd will again start at loosehead prop alongside Wallabies duo Folau Fainga’a and James Slipper.
Frost will be joined in the second row by Cadeyrn Neville who will be looking to continue his impressive performances in 2021 which saw him named in Dave Rennie’s first Wallabies squad for the year.
He will be joined in the national camp by loose forwards Rob Valetini and Pete Samu who have started every game so far this season, with Cusack rounding out the forward pack.
No.9 Nic White will again skipper the side, continuing his halves partnership alongside youngster Noah Lolesio, with fellow national squad members Irae Simone and Len Ikitau at inside and outside centre respectively.
Wright’s return sees first-time Wallaby squad member Andy Muirhead switch to the left wing with Tom Banks a mainstay in the No.15 jersey.
Another new selection in the Wallabies training squad, local product Lachlan Lonergan will be the reserve hooker alongside last week’s Brumbies debutants Fred Kaihea and Sefo Kautai, who will be the replacement props.
James Tucker will provide cover for the second row with Academy graduate Rory Scott in line for his second cap after an impressive debut last Friday.
Sharp shooter Ryan Lonergan will again provide energy off the pine as the reserve scrumhalf, with playmaker Bayley Kuenzle set to make his first appearance in 2021 in Sydney. Mack Hansen rounds out the gameday 23.
Brumbies coach Dan McKellar said: “Wrighty’s just got to turn up on Friday night and do his job, get the basics done well. He knows he hasn’t played in a long time, don’t have too high expectations on himself and just go about doing his role and if opportunity and space comes then we know that he’s dangerous in that area of the game.
“Bayley was excellent in pre-season, probably in our top three performers. I’m pleased for him off the back over a lot of hard work over November, December and January he finally gets a chance to pull on the jersey.
“The Waratahs will have a little bit more emotion and motivation on board this week no doubt. We’ve just got to focus on getting our game right, when we do that we tend to play well.”
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Tom Wright, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Andy Muirhead, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Nic White (captain), 8 Pete Samu, 7 Tom Cusack, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Nick Frost, 3 James Slipper, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 Harry Lloyd.
Replacements: 16 Lachlan Lonergan, 17 Fred Kaihea, 18 Sefo Kautai, 19 James Tucker, 20 Rory Scott, 21 Ryan Lonergan, 22 Bayley Kuenzle, 23 Mack Hansen.
Date: Friday, April 2
Venue: Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
Kick-off: 19.45 (08.45 GMT)
Assistant referees: TBC