Brumbies switch Slipper to solve prop loss
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Wallaby James Slipper is set to return to the Brumbies starting team at tighthead prop, with Nic White named to lead the side against the Western Force this Friday at GIO Stadium.
White has skippered the side twice previously, becoming the youngest ever Brumbies captain when he led the team out against the Melbourne Rebels at GIO Stadium in 2013 at just 22 years of age.
Slipper meanwhile will be tasked with swapping sides at scrum time to anchor the Brumbies set piece from tighthead.
Joining the Wallabies prop in the starting front-row for the first time is Brumbies pathways loosehead prop Harry Lloyd, with test hooker Folau Fainga’a retaining his place in the number two jersey.
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Darcy Swain and Cadeyrn Neville will form the second row pairing with the tall timbers having started all five of the Brumbies games this season to date.
Rob Valetini and Pete Samu start at blindside flank and number eight respectively, the latter having scored a double last time out against the Queensland Reds.
Jahrome Brown is the only change to the Brumbies backrow, with Tom Cusack ruled out through injury.
In the backs, White continues his partnership with Noah Lolesio in the halves. The duo combined brilliantly for the opening try in the Brumbies round one fixture against the Force in Perth.
An unchanged remaining backline sees Irae Simone and Len Ikitau continue their growing combination in the centres.
The Brumbies back three of Mack Hansen, Andy Muirhead and Tom Banks completes the run on side.
In the finishers, there are a number of potential Brumbies debutants including newly-arrived tighthead Sefo Kautai who is named in the Brumbies matchday selection.
Providing impact on the other side of the scrum will be Brumbies pathways prop Fred Kaihea who has been promoted to the senior squad as injury cover.
The 21-year-old loosehead trained with the squad through preseason and has produced a number of eye-catching displays for the Brumbies Runners and with the Queanbeyan Whites in the John I Dent Cup.
Hooker Lachlan Lonergan completes the front-row finishers, the Brumbies product one of 12 pathways graduates in the matchday selection.
Lock James Tucker returns to the Brumbies playing 23, with Canberra local Rory Scott set to make his first appearance for the club as the backrow finisher. The 20-year-old Marist College and Brumbies Pathways product has impressed at club level for the Canberra Royals and with the Brumbies Runners in recent years.
Vice-captain Ryan Lonergan will be the Brumbies finishing halfback, with teenage playmaker Reesjan Pasitoa and the electric Issak Fines-Leleiwasa completing the Brumbies selection.
Brumbies coach Dan McKellar said: “James [Slipper] 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.
“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.”
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Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Andy Muirhead, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Mack Hansen, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Nic White (captain), 8 Pete Samu, 7 Jahrome Brown, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Darcy Swain, 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 Reesjan Pasitoa, 23 Issak Fines-Leleiwasa
Date: Friday, March 26
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
Kick-off: 19.45 (16.45 AWST; 09.45 GMT)
Referee: Nic Berry
Assistant referees: Amy Perrett & Reuben Keane
TMO: Brett Cronan