Brumbies load up on Wallabies for Force
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Brumbies coach Dan McKellar will welcome back several Wallabies for the Super Rugby AU semifinal showdown with the Western Force.
James Slipper, Nic White, Pete Samu and Irae Simone have all been named for the encounter with the visitors from Western Australia in Canberra on Saturday.
Slipper, a 100-Test stalwart, will line-up at loosehead prop alongside hooker Folau Fainga’a and skipper Allan Alaalatoa in the front row.
A settled starting lock combination of Darcy Swain and Cadeyrn Neville will again get through plenty of work around the paddock while playing key roles in the set-piece.
Samu’s return at No.8 sees the damaging Rob Valetini shift to his preferred position of blindside flank with last round’s run-on debutant Rory Scott retaining the No.7 jersey.
A Wallaby halfback pairing of White and Noah Lolesio will again steer the side around the field with Simone’s return rekindling the midfield combination with the elusive Len Ikitau.
An electric back three sees Andy Muirhead, Tom Wright and Tom Banks looking to add to their combined tally of 10 tries so far this season.
The reserve front row consists of Canberra locals Lachlan Lonergan at hooker and Tom Ross at tighthead prop, with 120-capped Brumby Scott Sio the loosehead replacement.
Tall-timber Nick Frost will make an impact as the reserve second-rower with another Brumbies pathway product Luke Reimer in line for his Super Rugby debut off the bench in the must-win match.
Sharpshooter off the tee Ryan Lonergan will again play a key role as reserve No.9, with teenage playmaker Reesjan Pasitoa to get another chance to impress off the pine and the versatile Mack Hansen rounding out the game day squad.
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“It’s good to see Luke get his chance,” Brumbies coach Dan McKellar said.
“He’s been nice and patient and worked really hard for his club [Wests] over the past couple of weeks.
“He’s excited and I know his family is heavily invested in his career and I know they’ll be excited and proud of him.
“The Force has some momentum at the moment off the Rebels win and the Waratahs too and they played well against the Reds last week and they deserve their opportunity.
“At the end of the day it comes down to the team that turns up with the greatest intent and wants to dominate the collisions and takes their opportunities, that’s who generally wins semifinals.”
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Andy Muirhead, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Tom Wright, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Nic White, 8 Pete Samu, 7 Rory Scott, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Allan Alaalatoa (captain), 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Lachlan Lonergan, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Tom Ross, 19 Nick Frost, 20 Luke Reimer, 21 Ryan Lonergan, 22 Reesjan Pasitoa, 23 Mack Hansen.
Date: Saturday, May 1
Venue: Bruce Stadium, Canberra
Kick-off: 19.45 (17.45 West Australian time; 09.45 GMT)
Referee: Nic Berry
Assistant referees: Graham Cooper, Amy Perrett
TMO: James Leckie