Full-strength Brumbies to face Force
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Brumbies coach Dan McKellar will unleash Wallabies squad member Len Ikitau at outside centre in the side’s opening round of Super Rugby AU against the Western Force in Perth on Friday.
The 22-year-old will start for just the third time at Super Rugby level with Mack Hansen lining up for his first start on the wing, partnered by the ever-reliable Andy Muirhead and Wallabies fullback Tom Banks in the back three.
James Slipper will play his 137th Super Rugby match at HBF Park, as part of an all-Test row that includes Folau Fainga’a at hooker and skipper Allan Alaalatoa in the number three jersey.
Darcy Swain and Cadeyrn Neville will partner as locks for the second time, with Jahrome Brown set to make his return to Super Rugby level alongside the damaging Rob Valetini and new first-time father Pete Samu in the backrow.
Wallabies number nine Nic White will partner fellow Test playmaker Noah Lolesio in the halves with last year’s Brumbies Back of the Year, Irae Simone set to take his place in the familiar position of inside centre.
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The front row sees Connal McInerney, Tom Ross and Harry Lloyd ready to make their impact felt from the bench. The athletic Nick Frost and vice-captain Tom Cusack are the other forward finishers.
Former Junior Wallabies skipper Ryan Lonergan is the replacement scrumhalf with teenager Reesjan Pasitoa and the versatile Issak Fines-Leleiwasa rounding out the matchday 23.
Brumbies coach Dan McKellar said: “We’re super excited to be back at the starting line of what’s going to be a great Super Rugby season.”
“To head away is an experience we haven’t had a lot of over the past twelve months and I know as a group we love being on the road, enjoying each other’s company and getting a positive result.
“We saw in our trial, that the Western Force are a quality outfit and there’s no doubt they’ll be up for what’s going to be a great occasion at HBF Park on Friday night in front of a big crowd.”
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Andy Muirhead, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Mack Hansen, 10 Noah Lolesio, 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: 16 Connal McInerney, 17 Harry Lloyd, 18 Tom Ross, 19 Nick Frost, 20 Tom Cusack, 21 Ryan Lonergan, 22 Reesjan Pasitoa, 23 Issak Fines-Leleiwasa
Date: Friday, February 19
Venue: HBF Park, Perth
Kick-off: 19.00 (11.00 GMT)
Referee: Graham Cooper
Assistant referees: Sam Jones & Jordan Kaminski
TMO: Kyle Burnett