Preview: Reds v Brumbies - Green and Gold Rugby
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Preview: Reds v Brumbies

Preview: Reds v Brumbies

Welcome back to Super Rugby everyone.

Hello? HELLO?  IS THERE ANYONE THERE?

Oh well.

Let’s do this anyway.

The top of the conference Brumbies travel to Brisbane this week to take on the Queensland Reds. The Friday night fixture at Suncorp Stadium sits in NAIDOC week and will be Queensland Rugby’s annual Indigenous game. While the new jerseys look special, it’s the performance of the players wearing them that will have the home crowd most on edge.

The Brumbies have already secured the conference top spot and will be the only Australian team to feature in the finals. Their target is to accumulate as many points as possible to try to overtake the Stormers on the Top 4 ladder. In the end it’s just a difference of hosting the Chiefs or the Hurricanes, so yeah, good luck with that.

THE TEAMS

The Brumbies have made only one change to their starting line-up from their last game against the Rebels back in June. Wallaby prop Scott Sio returns to the starting lineup at loosehead prop replacing Nick Mayhew. Mayhew drops out of the squad all together as Leslie Leulua’iali’i-Makin and Ben Alexander sit on the bench. Apparently Christian Lealiifano was meant to make his long awaited return to Super Rugby from the reserves, however a light twinge of his hammy has delayed that plan for the time being.  As well as bringing back Wallaby Scott Sio, the Brumbies have Puma scrumhalf, Tomas Cubelli coming back from injury too.

The Reds have been forced to make a number of changes to their side  from the one that took on the Blues in Samoa. Captain Samu Kerevi is gone and replaced by Campbell Magnay at outside centre despite a lack of rugby of late. Izaia Perese returns to the side following his Australian Under 20s campaign, as does Hamish Stewart on the bench. The test window did not help the Reds with backrow powerhouses, Scott Higginbotham and Hendrick Tui, both returning injured. It has led to a somewhat unusual backrow featuring Adam Korzcyk at No 8 and Rob Simmons at blindside.  It’s a position the departing centurion has had international experience at, playing for the Wallabies there against Italy back in 2013, but it’s a big call against a clinical Brumbies unit. Steve Moore returns to the starting side and will captain the team in Kerevi’s absence.

On the bench young prop Markus Vanzati returns from injury while former Brisbane Bronco Caleb Timu is in line for a debut after sitting on the bench all game against the Blues.  The forgotten man, Cadeyrn Neville, returns to the squad for the first time this season following some excellent club form and an injury to Lukhan Tui. Thursday Islander Moses Sorovi sits on the bench looking for a memorable home crowd debut in this Indigenous match.

KEY STATS (courtesy of Opta Sports)

  • The Brumbies have won their last five games against the Reds by an average margin of 26 points, including their last two games where they’ve scored exactly 43 points on each occasion.
  • Three of the last five Australian derbies have been won by the visiting team, while the Reds haven’t won a home game against Australian opposition since Round 14, 2015 (five losses since).
  • The Brumbies have won their last two games away from home, the last time they won more on the bounce was a stretch of three road wins which saw them run into the 2015 semi-finals.
  • The Brumbies are the most effective tacklers in the competition, boasting a tackle success rate of 87% so far this campaign.
  • Stephen Moore will come up against his former club should he feature; Moore has scored five tries in his last four Super Rugby games.

KEY MATCH UPS

Karmichael Hunt v Tom Banks – Banks left the Reds for the Brumbies to step out from the Hunt shadow and backed himself to secure a starting spot in Canberra. It’s paid off and he’s been a big performer for the conference leaders since being handed the 15 jersey. Hunt was a rare standout for the Wallabies this June test window but reverts from inside centre to the more familiar fullback position. Expect to see him in the front line regularly.

Tupou/Fa’agase v Alaalatoa/Sio – The Brumby pair are a damn handy combination both on the field. June probably confirmed them as the likely Wallaby starting props come the Rugby Championship and they give the visiting team a strong scrum and a busy running game. The young props from Queensland are definitely highly regarded within the Wallaby structure, with both having spent time in the national squad over the last 12 months. They can ask for no greater testing ground than against the Wallaby props.

PREDICTION:

The Brumbies are way too settled and have more to play for. The Reds have only beaten them once at Suncorp Stadium and it’s unlikely to change on Friday. Brumbies by 20.

TEAMS:

REDS

1. Sef Fa’agase
2. Stephen Moore [c]
3. Taniela Tupou
4. Kane Douglas
5. Izack Rodda
6. Rob Simmons
7. George Smith
8. Adam Korczyk
9. James Tuttle
10. Quade Cooper
11. Eto Nabuli
12. Duncan Paia’aua
13. Campbell Magnay
14. Izaia Perese
15. Karmichael Hunt

Substitutes
16. Alex Mafi
17. Markus Vanzati
18. Sam Talakai
19. Cadeyrn Neville
20. Caleb Timu
21. Moses Sorovi
22. Hamish Stewart
23. Chris Kuridrani

BRUMBIES

1. Scott Sio
2. Josh Mann-Rea
3. Allan Alaalatoa
4. Rory Arnold
5. Sam Carter (C)
6. Scott Fardy
7. Chris Alcock
8. Jordan Smiler
9. Joe Powell
10. Wharenui Hawera
11. Aidan Toua
12. Kyle Godwin
13. Tevita Kuridrani
14. Henry Speight
15. Tom Banks

Substitutes
16. Robbie Abel
17. Leslie Leulua’iali’i-Makin
18. Ben Alexander
19. Blake Enever
20. Jarrad Butler
21. Tomas Cubelli
22. Nigel Ah Wong
23. Andrew Smith

  • I’m not the first person to say this, but what is the point of the non-Brumbies Wallabies players playing in the last couple of Super Rugby games? Chieka should take them all away to Caloundra for a 6 week training camp before the Rugby Championship starts. The Brumbies’ players can then join as soon as they are out of the competition. I’d love for the Wallabies to have combinations settled by the time we have to play the ABs and there’d be no excuse for ‘lack of fitness’.

    • TheNutorious

      I disagree, respectfully.

      It would completely undermine the integrity of the competition. I accept that Super Rugby has no integrity and is a blight on Australian rugby but still. Also, it undermines the integrity of the Reds, Waratahs, Force and Rebels jerseys. They are representing their states and communities, it should mean something. They need to show something in the final weeks of the season to command their places in the team next year, justify their existence, and give the supporters something to be optimistic about in the close season.

      I do see the value in an extended Wallabies camp, however. Could be the difference between 4th and 2nd in the RC.

      • All integrity was lost when this round of Super Rugby started 4 weeks ago. The BEST case scenario of these 2 games is that no Wallabies players get injured. What if Foley, Hooper or Folau get injured against the Jaguares on Saturday night? Then we are truly f**cked.

        • TheNutorious

          True.

          I’d argue that the competition never had integrity. The Super 6 in the early 90s should have evolved organically rather than become the SANZAR cash grab in the mid-90s.

          A f******* idiotic move and we are finally seeing the disastrous consequences of it now in Australia.

          Of course Super Rugby isn’t the only problem with Australian rugby but it is a symptom.

        • Who?

          It’s ok – Cheika always says no one’s a guaranteed selection, no one’s irreplaceable… ;-P

    • Fatflanker

      I guess SAANZAR would see it as throwing games to give Brumbies a leg-up on the table. Based on what we’re seeing of the AB scrum against the Lions can’t argue we need as many WB forwards chained to the scrum machine as early as possible.

      • There’s not much for the Brumbies to gain by finishing “3rd” overall by having more points than the Stormers. Both of those sides have to play either the Canes or the Chiefs and will probably be beaten. However you make a decent point.

      • RugbyReg

        The New Zealand teams have a long history of ‘resting’ their international stars. No dramas.

  • Bobas

    The Reds without Kerevi are such a different beast.
    The Brums bench is where they’ll streak away if it is tight.
    That Nick Mayhew is IMO better than both Benny A and Big Les.

  • Christopher

    Reds are going to get belted in the forwards i think… backs should be close, but won’t be.

  • TheNutorious

    Shame about Lealiifano. His return is going to be the highlight of the season for Australian rugby.

  • Fatflanker

    So Higginbotham came back injured – was that the reason he was overlooked for Italy, (rather than Cheiky just hating him, as we often hear)?

  • Pedro

    Is Rob Simmons really playing six?

    I don’t think the Reds are that bad, but their main chance will be if the Brums attack stalls (medium possibility).
    The Pones’ defense should be able to provide a platform for victory and is among the leagues best.

    • Gottsy

      When he played six for the wallabies under McKenzie he actually went really well.

  • Gottsy

    Good to see Cadeyrn Neville back on the team sheet. One of the more underrated forwards in Aus rugby in my opinion.

    • RugbyReg

      I’m with you mate. I’m a fan. I still hope to see him in a Wallaby jersey one day.

      • Gottsy

        Me too. Don’t see it happening though as he seems to be on the outer- I just love his intensity, every game he played last year his defensive work, presence around the ruck and his running game were all top notch

    • Jack Mallick

      He’ll be another promising 2nd rower off soon.

      You’d have to think the Tahs would be trying to get Neville or pick up Simmons. The Simmons situation in general blows my mind.

      • Bernie Chan

        The lock situation at the Reds sure seems a bit odd….by all means recruit for the future, but Simmons is not an ‘old’ lock by any stretch. Still the best scrum lock and lineout general we have… I guess Douglas must have time left on his contract, but he has done nothing this year to justify his spot. Rodda, Tui, Neville (jeez…where’s he been…injured…?) and the two U20 locks as understudies. Hope the first 3 don’t get injured. Looking forward to seeing Sorovi debut…super pass and running game (if he hasn’t lost any pace due to his injuries…).

        • Who?

          The problem started when the ARU pushed Douglas to the Reds so that he could play the 2015 RWC. The Reds at that point already didn’t need him. They had Neville, they had Simmons. Horwill was off, but they knew that Tui was coming. I know it suited Dougy’s family situation, and it suited Cheika to have him signed, but he should’ve been packed off to Melbourne, or Neville should’ve been sent back to Melbourne. Or Dougy back to the Tahs (they’ve not exactly had a surfeit of locks the last two years).
          It happens across all the provinces at some point, where they end up storing depths of talent in one position and ruining things for themselves and those players. Very annoying recruitment work, horrible for the nation’s depth to have that sort of log jam in a team – because there’s always a dearth elsewhere (recently, Tahs and Rebels). I blame Richard Graham… :-P

        • Bernie Chan

          Holy rubbish rugby….is RG still coping the wrath after so many years….:)

        • Who?

          Absolutely!!! He’ll still be copping it in 2025 – the same way that there are still Reds fans out there who can’t stand Eddie Jones, based on 2007. ;-)

    • Keith Butler

      The Rebels were mugs in letting him go. One of many bad player acquisition/management decisions they made.

  • Who?

    This is the first mention I’ve seen of Higgers getting injured… Any idea of when? All reports of the Italy selection said he’d been dropped, but then he’s not fit to play a Super game 2 weeks later. It’d be understandable if players returned home with leg injuries from the supposed flogging Cheika was giving them (i.e. fitness work injuries), but a neck injury..?

    • Adrian

      Hard to say re Higginbotham and a couple of other guys having “injuries”. It might mean they are IN.

      I think Cheika’s issues re Higginbotham are rubbished unfairly. Higginbotham is one of a star studded group of Reds forwards who play as individuals, not a pack, meaning that the Reds routinely loose. Higginbotham often plays as a brilliant individual, not a pack member.

      Having said that, I think Cheika still sees him as a bench option

      • Who?

        Who are the other guys? Tui, I’d heard whispers he was injured (though didn’t know about the arthroscope).
        Cheika’s got his own beliefs on how he wants to play the game (I don’t agree with them, but I’m not spending $180 to go to a dinner where he’s speaking locally in the next month), and I’ve learned there’s no point in complaining about his foibles as a selector. It’s not good for my mental health to watch the Wallabies anymore… I can’t stand the insanity of doing the same thing repeatedly expecting different results, making the same complaints without making changes (i.e. fitness – it’s the second year he’s whinged about that), to cover for the same failings in game plan and coaching…
        But all that’s very separate to a bloke who was supposedly dropped from a game (as opposed to being injured) coming back to his team injured, with something like a neck injury (which is generally a contact injury – what contact drills are they doing that they’re going to injure their necks?).
        Funny that you’ve got an indirect line to Cheika – some of your predictions, I’ve thought you had a psychic link or something! :-D
        Honestly, I wouldn’t be unhappy with Fards and Skelton getting bench roles – Nick Bishop called Skelton as dominating Retallick the other month against the Chiefs, which was funny, because I remember getting shocked watching live at how aggro and dominant Skelton had been in that game. How he’d driven and rag-dolled Brodie a number of times. As in, finally doing what we’ve always wanted, and consistently through a game. It’d be great if we could get a couple of good games out of him before he heads back overseas… Just a shame it took a stint overseas to get the best out of him – reports are that he came home in the best shape of his life.

        • Adrian

          Injuries I thought of were Higginbotham, Tui, Naivalu, Phipps (still), Skelton, not that many, but it made me suspicious!

          Re Cheika stuff, its complicated!

          I too get frustrated by game plans that don’t match selections, and the seeming madness of doing the same thing over and again and expecting a different result,
          BUT
          If we start at the point of McKenzie’s resignation, and leaving aside everything that caused it, we can start to see the picture. I should add, before I start, that Cheika didn’t cause it, and had no idea it was coming.

          When Cheika got the job, there were many unwritten things he had to do, some of which were virtually “conditions of the job”
          1. Mend fences. Not just inside the team but between States.
          2. Invite ALL Australian team coaches to become assistant coaches. Only Larkham agreed
          3. Get a captain that NSW, Qld, ACT agreed on. Moore. His preference was Pocock at the time, but outside issues ruled him out. Cheika is/was a past master of dealing with outside issues without offending too many
          4. Accept a team for EOS visit to Europe that had already been picked
          5. Bring guys from outside the tent back in asap, and do so in a way that offended as few as possible. eg bring Beale back when the team was OS, and out of the limelight, and then only use him on the bench
          6. Use his political and manoeuvring skills at all times for unity’s sake.
          7. Stick to all of this for 5 years
          In exchange, Cheika got to keep coaching NSW next year, the Giteau rule and money.

          Cheika has rarely picked his perfect team and tactics but he’s getting closer. He still defers to Larkham on game plans, and has Moore as captain. Moore is nothing like a classic Cheika player, but a deal is a deal.
          Cheika’s perfect style is the power game with players to match. My guessing is that he thinks he’ll get there by 2018

          There is a lot more to Cheika and this story. Cheika plays ducks and drakes. Never mind the so called fitness issue, Latu will play against NZ, and so might Fardy and Skelton (if fit), irrespective of the going overseas “rule”

        • Who?

          Naivalu’s fair enough, at least it was game-related. You can’t control that as a coach. Phipps, I thought he was left home, as he was injured before the Tests..? And not named? Skelton, I wasn’t aware… But again, not named in the squad.
          I really don’t believe the Wallabies should be playing a power game. I think it’s a game that gets you close, but doesn’t give you ultimate success. Because there’s always a team out there just as powerful, or more powerful. And because a smart team can pull you apart, and a smart team with equal levels of power will shred you. Gatland played a power game for years. How many times did he beat the Wallabies with that game plan? Or NZ? It might get us closer than we are presently, but it’s not the ultimate solution. It’s only a part of it… NZ arguably played a power game in the Lions tests so far. It worked the first week – as a shock tactic. It didn’t work the second week, the Lions owned them in tight, and NZ missed overlaps and one-on-ones out wide which are usually their bread and butter…
          I really have no idea why Point 1 became an issue… Clearly it was – Hooper said during the June 14 Tests that he just couldn’t wait to get back to the Tahs. Might’ve been true, but it’s no way to build team unity (pretty sure he was captain in June, when we won all our home Tests). But Link had been everywhere, hadn’t overly favoured Reds (he made Mowen captain – our last ref whisperer – played a Brumbies loose forward trio (Hooper, Fardy, Mowen)), and his Dublin punishments weren’t only for non-Reds (pretty sure LFGill copped a fine from that), so for an outsider, it’s baffling that things somehow split along state lines.
          Point 2, we can only be thankful that Woody didn’t accept an offer to be an assistant…
          Point 4, it wasn’t a bad team. A team that lost by a point to the ABs thanks to a kick after the siren. But they were clearly destroyed by the off field events, given the record that November…
          I’m surprised Point 5 was an unwritten thing he had to do. I don’t see that Beale needed to be brought in, when he’d been such an integral part of the implosion of the team. There are still many on here who think he shouldn’t be part of the team, ever. I think that’s harsh. But certainly, the punishment didn’t fit the circumstances, and it started the feeling that Cheika’s primarily selection criteria was wearing a blue jersey… One that has hopefully diminished somewhat, but little things like Hanigan’s continued selection in June and Dempsey coming in without any game time this year (and without international experience) hasn’t necessarily fixed it. Beale could’ve stayed in Sydney for the rest of the year without any significant impact to him, or on the results.
          Pocock as captain wouldn’t have worked, as he wasn’t available when Cheika took control. And it wouldn’t surprise me if the captains (I think Hooper had been captain for a bit under Link, can’t remember whether or not Moore had the role when he quit. I was at that game, only found out the next day…) had been a guided selection from the ARU for a while…
          But I’m very happy that Coleman’s captaining the Force this week. He’s a Cheika player, and he’s a real prospect – provided he can tone down the Cheika aggro.
          But all that’s a long way from the Reds and Brums this week! :-D

        • mikado

          I think that Australia will struggle to beat the top teams with a power game. Whereas a mobile running game should be enough to beat NH teams at least. SA and NZ looking like tough propositions this year!

  • Huw Tindall

    Good write up Nick but I wouldn’t say Sio is a dead set starter for the Wallabies in TRC. Was verys cratchy against Italy and Smith got towelled up when Sio came off. Well off his best form at RWC. Arguably, and for all his critics, Tom Robertson is scrumming better at the moment. Undoubtedly Sio is better around the park but we need scrum parity at least. Wallabies already struggle enough for territory so getting pinged for penalties at scrum time is just not acceptable.

    • RugbyReg

      yeah Nick. Your comments about Sio are way off. Idiot.

      • Bernie Chan

        Haha..another avatar perhaps…?

  • Adrian

    This game and the other 2 involving Australian sides is a chance for guys on the fringe of the previous squad to get into it, and guys in it to drop out.

    That’s good, because the June squad wasn’t exactly a raging success!

    In this game Sio can show how good he can be, Nabuli can show he’s not a one hit not-quite wonder, and Powell can try to control the game.

    I think Fardy will be watched by Cheika, because my mail (a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who knows Cheika) is that Cheika was considering both Fardy and Skelton for bench roles v NZ.

    • Bernie Chan

      Fardy…yes please. Skelton…noooo….!

  • Brisneyland Local

    Well punters, I was going to go, but it is pissing rain and cold. And like the totally weak northener that I am, my wife and kids have said bugger it we are not going, so it looks like I am not as well.
    Off next door to my neighbours house, he has foxtel and I just bring a bottle or two of plonk, and that is my match payment, so to speak.
    The weather favours the Brumbies, Qld’ers struggle in this crap!

ACT Brumbies
@RugbyReg

The original prop in a prop's body, but thankfully I have the rugby mind of a prop as well.

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