Thursday’s Rugby news see the Brumbies host the Force at The Fortress on Friday, and the Waratahs take on the high-flying Reds on Saturday, while planning ramps-up for Trans-Tasman rugby and the Rugby Champs, and the Aon Uni 7s kicks off on the weekend.
The first game in Round 6 of Super Rugby AU sees the ACT Brumbies welcome the Western Force to GIO Stadium on Friday night.
The Brumbies have not lost to the Force since 2013 in round 20 of Super Rugby.
Nic White will captain the Brumbies as they look to rebound following their 40-38 loss to the Reds.
James Slipper will shift across to tighthead with the Brumbies short on props following suspensions and injuries to their Wallabies stocks.
“James has got up for this game and he will play tighthead and he’s got a lot of experience there so he will do a good job for us,” McKellar said on Wednesday.
Slipper himself is returning from a knee injury for the match, with Harry Lloyd packing down with him for his first start this season. Test star Allan Alaalatoa is still suspended and Tom Ross suffered an injury.
“We have two forced changes through injuries this week to Rob Kearney and Richard Kahui. It’s an easy transition for Marcel (Brache) and Jack (McGregor) to come in, they’ve played a lot of rugby with us,” head coach Tim Sampson explained.
Jono Lance and exciting English prospect Jordan Olowofela have earned places on the bench.
The NSW Waratahs will be looking to restore some pride back in the jersey on Saturday night when they take on traditional rivals the Queensland Reds.
The Tahs will be sporting retro jumpers when they lock horns with the competition leaders, and hope to channel the glory days for this heavyweight battle.
They welcome back Will Harris and Izaia Perese, but lose backrowers Lachie Swinton and Jack Dempsey as they try for their first win of the season at Stadium Australia. Their most recent loss marks the first time the Waratahs have not won any of their opening four matches of a Super Rugby season.
Reds coach Brad Thorn has raised some eyebrows with his selections this week, as he looks to keep the team’s momentum going. Incumbent Wallabies No.8 Harry Wilson has been dropped to the bench to allow Seru Uru a chance to start at the back of the scrum.
“After a big pre-season, Seru has been in some really good form and has earned his opportunity to get a start this week,” Thorn said.
Angus Blyth drops out of the team completely after a strong season so far, with Ryan Smith earning his first start at lock.
The Reds will be wary not to drop a game against the embattled Tahs after securing a breakthrough win over competition favourites the Brumbies. In recent years Thorn has lamented his side’s inability to back-up after big matches.
With the rugby calendar still very much up in the air, speculation is growing around how the Trans-Tasman competition and the Rugby Championships will proceed.
New Rugby Australia boss Andy Marinos has come out and said that they want to host the entire Rugby Championship later this year. Australia successfully hosted the truncated Tri-Nations last year and Marinos believes they are in a good position to host again this year. The 2021 tournament may require another Covid-19 bubble scenario, and Marinos is preparing for every eventuality.
“We have all resigned ourselves to the fact that we’re probably going to be in a bubble in some way, shape or form,” he said at the launch of this weekend’s Aon Uni 7s. “We successfully hosted the Tri-Nations last year on a very short turnaround; our request to Sanzaar is let’s get ahead of the game a lot earlier and be able to build a proper model.
“There’s a fair appetite (to) host it here in Australia again and it’s something that we’ll put a lot of effort into.”
The Trans-Tasman comp will go ahead as planned if New Zealand allows a travel bubble between the countries on 6 April, but there is a back-up plan to create a hub in one location.
After seemingly missing out on the opportunity to host the British & Irish Lions Series against South Africa, RA is looking at every avenue to bring as much rugby to the country as possible.
France’s visit to Australia could be pushed back to mid-July to accommodate players involved in the Top 14 final.
Back in action
In case you missed it, the Aon Uni 7s kicks off this week, with a new format that splits the competition between NSW and Queensland. The first-up regional rounds will be played concurrently at Woollahra Oval in Sydney and Easts Rugby Club in Brisbane on Saturday and Sunday.
The tournament will provide the 7s stars with much-needed game time ahead of their Olympic title defence in Tokyo.
The Australian Sevens squad players will join the competition in round two and will be recruited to different teams throughout the competition, as well as in the lead-up to the finals.
Australian Sevens Performance Manager Scott Bowen told rugby.com.au, “The Aon Uni 7s Series is integral in continuing our professional pathway, and player development.
“This year’s tournament is about preparing the women for the Olympic Games as well as continuing to fine-tune our squad ahead of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and the Paris Olympics.
“As the competition amongst the Universities continues to grow, it is inspiring to see the next generation putting their hands up and competing for a spot in the national squad.”
Australian Women’s Sevens Head Coach John Manenti said: “While the women won’t be taking part in every leg of the Series, it’s an opportunity to be out playing competitive Rugby.
“A lot of the squad are returning to their old teams this year, so it’s imperative that when they get an opportunity to play, they make the most of it.
“With the World Series suspended last year, it’s fantastic to get players into teams and playing high-quality Rugby, as we continue to build prepare for Tokyo.”
Every match of the competition will be streamed live on Rugby Xplorer.