Brumbies Friend wants more beef up front for Highlanders

Brumbies head coach Andy Friend says that his forwards will have to put in a much-improved performance if they are to begin their 2009 Super 14 campaign on a winning note.

The Brumbies forward pack was out muscled in a 17-14 trial match that they lost to the Waratahs last week and Friend say he is expecting another physical battle in Friday night’s season-opener against the Highlanders in Dunedin.

“We were disappointed as a squad as to what we presented on Thursday night,” Friend told AAP.

“We definitely know we have to up the ante there for the Highlanders.

“They’re a very physical side, very strong through the forwards and if we don’t dominate in that area it will be a long night for us.”

The Highlanders might have lost the services of former All Blacks Anton Oliver and Carl Hayman but Friend says that the Brumbies will not be taking them lightly.

“They’re very dominant in the forwards. A lot of their set-piece play is the basis of their go-forward,” he said.

“Jimmy Cowan at halfback is an integral part of their side.

“He’ll ignite their attack and ignites their defence and Adam Thomson is probably one of the best back row forwards going around in the game.”

With the Brumbies expecting a physical bashing they could bring in Patrick Phibbs at halfback instead of Josh Holmes although Phibbs is in some doubt with a calf injury.

“The important thing for us is to make sure that calf is nothing more than just a strain,” Friend said.

“If it comes through that it is clear there’s every likelihood that he may start.”

Stirling Mortlock will again play at at inside-centre where he featured for the Wallabies on their European tour last year and Adam Ashley-Cooper is set to start at outside-centre.

“I think 40 minutes against the Waratahs is not a fair indication as to what they can do, so we’re very keen to see that again,” he said.

For this week’s Highlanders clash the Brumbies have named a 23-man squad for the trip to Dunedin. There are however doubts over the fitness of prop Ben Alexander (twisted knee) and utility forward Peter Kimlin (quadricep).

The Brumbies are expected to name their starting line up on Wednesday.

Forwards: Ben Alexander, Mark Chisholm, Ben Hand, Nic Henderson, Stephen Hoiles (capt), Peter Kimlin, Shawn Mackay, Stephen Moore, Julian Salvi, Guy Shepherdson, George Smith, Sitaleki Timani, John Ulugia.

Backs: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Francis Fainifo, Mark Gerrard, Josh Holmes, Christian Lealiifano, Stirling Mortlock, Patrick Phibbs, Clyde Rathbone, Tyrone Smith, Matt Toomua.

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