With the news Brumbies big guns Pete Samu and James Slipper will sit out this Saturday’s Super Rugby AU grand final against the Queensland Reds, head coach Dan McKellar is backing his squad in.
“I’m shattered for them … We’ll just back the next person to stand up and do the job,” he said.
“If you can’t get motivated for Saturday night you’re in the wrong game,” McKellar said.
With four changes total to the line-up that knocked off the Western Force, first-string rake Folau Fainga’a has been named on the bench after hurting his shoulder in the qualifier alongside Harry Lloyd and Tom Ross in the reserve front row.
Canberra product Lachlan Lonergan will earn his first start for the cub at hooker.
The exact time frames for Slipper and Samu, who came off injured against the Force last weekend, is yet to be determined, but McKellar indicated it would be “weeks not months”.
The back-row reshuffle due to Samu’s injury sees the recently re-signed Rob Valentini shift to number 8, with Nick Frost set to start at blindside flanker alongside local product Rory Scott.
“Frosty to most people would be considered a lock, but we’ve always seen him as someone who can develop into a six,” McKellar said. “He’s tall but he’s a real athlete.”
Henry Stowers, who was signed from Shute Shield just a few weeks ago as injury cover, has been named on the bench and is in line to make a remarkable Brumbies debut in the Super Rugby AU grand final against the Reds.
“I was amazed Henry wasn’t signed to be honest,” McKellar said, “I thought he was outstanding last year for the Force.”
An unchanged backline sees Nic White and playmaker Noah Lolesio start as the halves pairing.
Outside them will be centre-pairing Irae Simone and Len Ikitau, who have started all but one match together in the midfield this season.
The fan-favourite blockbuster back three consists of Tom Wright and Andy Muirhead staring on the wings with Wallabies fullback Tom Banks wearing the number 15 jersey.
Having lost their last two matches against the Reds by two-points, McKellar said he’s keen to knock the “deserved” favourites off in front of a full crowd of Queenslanders.
“We know Queensland are the favourites and deservedly so, a lot of people want to see them win … It’s our job to make sure that doesn’t happen.”Brumbies head coach Dan McKellar
“We’ve just got to get our game right and go up there to enjoy what’s a really special occasion and understand the pressure is all on the opposition.”
Coming up against a Queensland Reds team who have only dropped one game this entire Super Rugby AU season, Sio said it’ll be a big challenge not just up forward but right across the park.
“It’s always a big challenge, they’re a great set piece team and they thrive on it … It’s going to be a big day for us up there, we’ve got to front up.”
The Queensland Reds have made three changes to their starting line-up, with Jock Campbell coming onto the left wing, Josh Flook at outside centre, and Ryan Smith playing at lock.
Super Rugby AU Grand Final teams
|1||Scott Sio||1||Feao Fotuaika|
|2||Lachlan Lonergan||2||Brandon Paenga-Amosa|
|3||Allan Alaalatoa (c)||3||Taniela Tupou|
|4||Darcy Swain||4||Ryan Smith|
|5||Cadeyrn Neville||5||Lukhan Salakaia-Loto|
|6||Nick Frost||6||Angus Scott-Young|
|7||Rory Scott||7||Fraser McReight|
|8||Rob Valetini||8||Harry Wilson|
|9||Nic White||9||Tate McDermott|
|10||Noah Lolesio||10||James O’Connor (c)|
|11||Tom Wright||11||Jock Campbell|
|12||Irae Simone||12||Hamish Stewart|
|13||Len Ikitau||13||Josh Flook|
|14||Andy Muirhead||14||Jordan Petaia|
|15||Tom Banks||15||Bryce Hegarty|
|16||Folau Fainga’a||16||Alex Mafi|
|17||Harry Lloyd||17||Dane Zander|
|18||Tom Ross||18||Zane Nonggorr|
|19||Henry Stowers||19||Seru Uru|
|20||Luke Reimer||20||Liam Wright|
|21||Ryan Lonergan||21||Kalani Thomas|
|22||Reesjan Pasitoa||22||Isaac Henry|
|23||Mack Hansen||23||Filipo Daugunu|
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