Brumbies v Force: Teenager in pivotal role
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENTS: Brumbies coach Dan McKellar and Western Force counterpart Tim Sampson named their teams for the pre-season Super Rugby AU outing in Canberra on Tuesday.
McKellar has handed the reins to teenage playmaker Reesjan Pasitoa, who will start at flyhalf against the Force.
Pasitoa is joined by fellow playmaker Rod Iona in the side’s only pre-season hitout, Iona making a remarkable return to Brumbies colours, last appearing for the side in 2015.
The former Samoan International will link with 2020 Wallabies squad member Len Ikitau who will wear the No.13 jersey for the first time since making his debut for the franchise in 2019.
A familiar front row of Wallaby trio James Slipper, Folau Fainga’a and skipper Allan Alaalatoa will excite the Brumbies faithful when they get their first look at the side for the year.
Darcy Swain starts at lock on his franchise’s home ground at Viking Park, partnering the hulking Cadeyrn Neville in the second row.
A dynamic loose forward trio sees Wallabies Rob Valetini and Pete Samu combine with Jahrome Brown who will pull on the Brumbies strip for the first time in over a year.
Adding experience to the halves duo will be Nic White who will wear the familiar No.9 jersey, alongside Pasitoa in No.10.
The ever-reliable Andy Muirhead will take his place on the left wing with Canberra product Mack Hansen showing his versatility on the right hand touchline.
Tom Banks rounds out the starting side at fullback.
The Brumbies will keep Scott Sio and Noah Lolesio fresh while the replacements will also feature last year’s grand final team members Tom Ross, Connal McInerney and Nick Frost, alongside fellow familiar faces of Harry Lloyd, Lachlan Lonergan, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa and Ryan Lonergan.
New recruits James Tucker and Reece Tapine will get their first taste in their new colours on Tuesday.
Brumbies academy graduates Tom Hooper, Rory Scott and Luke Reimer will all be on show on, with current pathways players Junior Tupou, Tom Haddad and Corey Toole also expected to receive game time.
“It’s really exciting to be back on the field and talking about playing football matches again,” the Brumbies coach, McKellar, said.
“The players are buzzing and as coaches, we’ll be looking to make sure everyone gets a good hit out under their belt ahead of what’s going to be a really competitive Super Rugby AU season.
“Reesjan is a developing nicely and this will be a good opportunity for him to get some valuable game time against a team that’s got a lot of quality across the park.”
* Meanwhile Force coach Tim Sampson said he is excited to see the team in action with the season opener just around the corner.
The pre-season hit-out at Viking Park is the first chance for a number of high-profile recruits to make their mark in a Force jersey ahead of a massive Super Rugby season.
“It’s great to be here in Canberra and have the opportunity to play a game, it’s fantastic,” Sampson explained.
“There’s a lot of new players, including international and Australian players returning from overseas, so it’s key for them to build cohesion and gain an understanding of how everyone plays and develop those relationships.”
Sampson was swift to note the significant excitement and anticipation around the franchise with Round One just around the corner.
“There’s no better feeling than running out onto your home ground,” he said.
“You always want to play in front of your home supporters. It’s great to have this build-up to play at home against the 2020 champions. It’s got a nice feel to it and we’re hoping for a big crowd to cheer us on.”
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Mack Hansen, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Rod Iona, 11 Andy Muirhead, 10 Reesjan Pasitoa, 9 Nic White, 8 Pete Samu, 7 Jahrome Brown, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Allan Alaalatoa (captain), 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements – from: Forwards – Scott Sio, Harry Lloyd, Tom Ross, Connal McInerney, Lachlan Lonergan, Nick Frost, James Tucker, Tom Hooper, Luke Reimer, Rory Scott; Backs – Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, Ryan Lonergan, Junior Tupou, Reece Tapine, Noah Lolesio, Tom Haddad, Corey Toole.
Western Force: 15 Jack McGregor, 14 Byron Ralston, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Brad Lacey, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Brynard Stander, 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Tomás Lezana, 5 Tim Anstee, 4 Fergus Lee-Warner, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Feleti Kaitu’u, 1 Angus Wagner.
Replacements – from: Jack Winchester, Scott Tolmie, Chris Heiberg, Santiago Medrano, Tom Robertson, Greg Holmes, Sam Offer, Jackson Pugh, Manu Kololo, Ollie Callan, Tomás Cubelli, Michael McDonald, Jake McIntyre, Domingo Miotti, Henry Taefu, Jake Strachan, Grason Makara, Toni Pulu, Marcel Brache, Rob Kearney, Richard Kahui.
Date: Tuesday, February 9
Venue: Viking Park, Canberra
Kick-off: 18.00 (15.00; 07.00 GMT)