SUPER RUGBY AU - PREDICTIONS AND TEAMS: ROUND FOUR
TOUCH OF CLASS: All Blacks World Cup-winner Richard Kahui could finally take to the field when the Western Force face the Brumbies on Saturday.
Western Force coach Tim Sampson said Kahui will provide a touch of class along with a cool head when the World Cup-winning All Black lines up in Saturday’s Super Rugby AU clash with the Brumbies.
Kahui, who helped NZ win the 2011 World Cup, has been named on the bench for his Force debut.
The 35-year-old has spent the past seven seasons in Japan, and has impressed Sampson with his level of fitness since joining the Force last week.
“He’s in good nick. We’ve seen it, because he doesn’t mind having his shirt off around the place,” Sampson quipped.
But it is Kahui’s coolness in a crisis and exquisite skills that Sampson is most thrilled about.
“He’s got a touch of class about him,” Sampson said of the 17-Test All Black.
“He’s a pretty cool, calm character. That’s important coming off the bench.
‘Through that second half or whenever he gets on the field, to have a level-headed player like Richard come on hopefully will set us up to finish well.”
Former Wallabies scrumhalf Nick Frisby has also been named for his Force debut.
Frisby, who made five appearances for the Wallabies in 2016, will replace skipper Ian Prior (shoulder) in the run-on side.
Former All Blacks lock Jeremy Thrush will captain the side in Prior’s absence.
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Meanwhile, Friday’s fixture sees the Waratahs clash with the Melbourne Rebels.
Coming off a bye, Melbourne are yet to taste victory in their two games while the Waratahs are recovering from a heart-breaking one-point loss to the Brumbies in the last round.
Waratahs coach Rob Penney said the Rebels, who are likely to be away from home for the entire season, didn’t need any extra motivation to get up for a NSW game.
“All the teams that play the Waratahs have a reason to dislike the Waratahs and the Rebels are no different,” Penney said.
“They will have all sorts of conversations around hardships they’re having to go through being away from home.
“They will be tough … they put us to the sword last time we played them in Melbourne and hopefully we can perform well.”
Penney said he’d put plenty of time into their defensive strategy to counter the likes of Wallabies Toomua, Dane Haylett-Petty and Marika Koroibete.
“Last time we played them Matt Toomua gave a masterclass of kicking strategy,” he said.
“We know we’re going to confront that again … we’ve had to think more broadly around our defensive strategy.
“We think we’ve done the work and players just have to deliver on Friday, ”
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This week’s predictions
Friday, July 24
Waratahs v Rebels
(Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney – Kick-off: 19.05 (09.05 GMT)
The Rebels picked up a 24-10 win in their most recent clash with the NSW Waratahs (Rd 3, 2020 Super Rugby), snapping a six-game losing streak against them; they will now hunt for back-to-back wins against the NSW Waratahs for the first time in Super Rugby.
Each of the NSW Waratahs’ last three Super Rugby games on home turf have been won by the team trailing at half-time on the day, with the NSW Waratahs picking up only one win in that period (L2).
The Rebels have lost four of their last five Super Rugby games as the away team on the day (W1), despite scoring 23+ points in a game on four occasions in that span.
The NSW Waratahs have kicked 10 penalty goals so far in Super Rugby AU, the most of any team and twice as many as the second-ranked Rebels (5)
NSW Waratahs’ duo Michael Hooper (65) and Rob Simmons (62) have made the second and third – most effective ruck hits respectively of any player in Super Rugby AU; only the Reds’ Liam Wright (86) stands above them in this category.
@rugby365com: Waratahs by five points
Waratahs: 15 Jack Maddocks, 14 James Ramm, 13 Joey Walton, 12 Karmichael Hunt, 11 Alex Newsome, 10 Will Harrison, 9 Mitch Short, 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Lachlan Swinton, 5 Rob Simmons (captain), 4 Ned Hanigan, 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2 Tom Horton, 1 Tom Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Joe Cotton, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Chris Talakai, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Jed Holloway, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 23 Ben Donaldson.
Rebels: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty (captain), 14 Andrew Kellaway, 13 Reece Hodge, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Ryan Louwrens, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Josh Kemeny, 5 Trevor Hosea, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Pone Fa’amausili, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Cameron Orr.
Replacements: 16 Efitusi Ma’afu, 17 Matt Gibbon, 18 Jermaine Ainsley, 19 Michael Stolberg, 20 Esei Haangana, 21 Rob Leota, 22 Frank Lomani, 23 Andrew Deegan.
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant referees: Amy Perrett & Reuben Keane
TMO: Ian Smith
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Saturday, July 25
Force v Brumbies
(Leichhardt Oval, Sydney – Kick-off: 19.15 (09.15 GMT)
The Brumbies have won their last seven Super Rugby games against the Force in succession; their last defeat to the Western Australian outfit came in Round 20, 2013; they have never lost to them by a margin of more than nine points.
The Force have lost their last six games against the Brumbies in Super Rugby outside Western Australia, scoring an average of just 15 points per game across that stretch.
The Brumbies have won 14 of their last 16 Super Rugby games (L2), including their last five on the bounce; the last time they were defeated by a fellow Australian outfit was in Round 6, 2019 (vs Reds).
The Force have gained an average of 454 metres per game in Super Rugby AU, the most of any team, including 560m against the Reds in Round 3 – their third-most in a single Super Rugby game in the last decade.
Brumbies’ hooker Folau Fainga’a has scored two tries from two games in Super Rugby AU, more than any other forward; in fact, his career tally of 22 tries is the second-most of any hooker in the last decade of Super Rugby (Malcolm Marx–30)
@rugby365com: Brumbies by 10 points
Western Force: 15 Jack McGregor, 14 Byron Ralston, 13 Marcel Brache, 12 Henry Taefu, 11 Brad Lacey, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Brynard Stander, 7 Tevin Ferris, 6 Henry Stowers, 5 Fergus Lee-Warner, 4 Jeremy Thrush (Captain), 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Feleti Kaitu’u, 1 Angus Wagner.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Tom Sheminant, 19 Ollie Atkins, 20 Ollie Callan, 21 Jacob Abel, 22 Richard Kahui, 23 Kyle Godwin.
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Solomone Kata, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Tom Wright, 10 Bayley Kuenzle, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Pete Samu, 7 Will Miller, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Nick Frost, 4 Murray Douglas, 3 Allan Alaalatoa (captain), 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Connal McInerney, 17 Harry Lloyd, 18 James Slipper, 19 Ben Hyne, 20 Lachlan McCaffrey, 21 Issak Fines, 22 Mack Hansen, 23 Andy Muirhead.
Referee: Damon Murphy
Assistant referees: Amy Perrett & Angus Gardner
TMO: George Ayoub
Additional sources: AAP & SANZAAR