Still no Pocock for Brumbies
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Brumbies coach Dan McKellar admits it’s frustrating after David Pocock’s injury return was delayed for at least another two weeks.
Pocock hasn’t played in the last six games as he nurses a calf injury and will miss the Brumbies’ crunch Super Rugby clash against the Blues in Canberra on Saturday.
The Wallabies’ flank has been on the park for only 138 minutes in three appearances through 11 rounds this season, and has played more Tests than Super Rugby games in the past two years.
Pocock, 31, is likely playing his final Super Rugby season and the latest setback means he may only have three Super Rugby games in Australia left.
“It’s no more frustrating for me than it is for David,” McKellar said.
“He’s pushing hard and wants to make a contribution on field and it’s been a disappointing few weeks for him.
“We’ve made progress but he’s just not right so he’s another week or two away.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel but I can’t give you an exact date. I’d love to.
“Hopefully we’ll see him in Brumbies colours sooner rather than later.”
It’s a tough blow for the Brumbies who are back in Canberra following a gruelling tour of South Africa and Argentina.
They have also lost Tevita Kuridrani to the Wallabies’ resting policy and Tom Wright moves backs to the bench as Irae Simone and Len Ikitau form a new centre pairing.
Scrumhalf Joe Powell returns to the starting side to replace Matt Lucas who falls out of the game day 23 with Ryan Lonergan promoted.
If the Brumbies secure a bonus-point win against the Blues and results fall their way, they can go top of the Australian conference this weekend.
The Brumbies (four-six) are currently third in their conference and 12th overall as they chase a top-eight finals berth with six games remaining.
McKellar admitted for the first time this season that he can see a path to the finals.
“Last year if you won eight games you snuck into the semis and this year you might if you win seven, which is what we won last year,” McKellar said.
“Four out of our next six are at home, we’ve performed well at home so we’re confident good things are ahead.
“This time of year you need to build momentum and confidence as we did last year and then you sneak into the finals and anything can happen on the day.”
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Toni Pulu, 10 Christian Lealiifano (captain), 9 Joe Powell, 8 Pete Samu, 7 Jahrome Brown, 6 Tom Cusack, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Connal McInerney, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, 19 Darcy Swain, 20 Murray Douglas, 21 Ryan Lonergan, 22 Tom Wright, 23 Andy Muirhead.
Date: Saturday, May 4
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
Kick-off: 19.45 (21.45 NZ time; 09.45 GMT)
Referee: Damon Murphy (Australia)
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Angus Gardner (Australia)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)