Brumbies v Blues preview

Canberra Stadium, 19.40 (08.40 GMT)


One would have thought that after being yellow carded for foul play (stomping against the Crusaders last week) Blues captain Troy Flavell would tone down his approach.


However, he spoke this week of the need for his team to be “more physical” when they face the Brumbies in Canberra. It is obvious the Blues intend taking the fight to their trans-Tasman rivals.


“We discussed our physicality and what we want to bring to the game, especially as a forward pack. We made a good start [against the Crusaders], but it is something we want to keep working on,” Flavell said.


Whether that means they will step over the line – following the example set by their captain last week – remains to be seen. But there is no doubt the Blues are determined to stamp their mark on the tournament.


Flavell can protest all he like about referees that single him out. But as long as he pushes the envelope, the Blues are going to find themselves on the wrong end of refereeing decisions.


The Brumbies are fully aware of the physical (and often over-robust) nature of the Blues’ game, but they are not easily scared. They have their own, unique way of dealing with such onslaughts.


Wallaby fly-half Stephen Larkham, who is back after missing last week’s win over the Chiefs for personal reasons, says he is keen to take up the challenge.


“The Blues showed what a strong side they’ll be this season,” Larkham said. “They have a big, physical pack and their backs were impressive against the Crusaders.


“But the boys are really looking forward to playing at Canberra Stadium in front of a big home crowd. We love playing at home and I think our record in Canberra reflects that.”


It is indeed a game where the Brumbies’ all-action running game will be tested by the brutal onslaught from a rejuvenated Blues outfit.


Prediction: The Blues could easily bully the Brumbies into submission, but we feel class may prevail and the Brumbies will pull away in the end. The Brumbies by 10 to 15 points.


Teams:


Brumbies: 15 Julian Huxley, 14 Clyde Rathbone, 13 Stirling Mortlock (c), 12 Gene Fairbanks, 11 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10 Stephen Larkham, 9 George Gregan; 8 Stephen Hoiles, 7 George Smith, 6 Julian Salvi, 5 Mark Chisholm, 4 Alistair Campbell, 3 Guy Shepherdson, 2 Jeremy Paul, 1 Nic Henderson.
Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Salesi Ma’asu, 18 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 19 Jone Tawake, 20 Patrick Phibbs, 21 Matt Carraro, 22 Peter Playford


Blues: 15 George Pisi, 14 Doug Howlett, 13 Anthony Tuitavake, 12 Luke McAlister, 11 Rudi Wulf, 10 Isa Nacewa, 9 David Gibson, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Angus Macdonald, 5 Troy Flavell (c), 4 Greg Rawlinson, 3 John Afoa, 2 Derren Witcombe, 1 Saimone Taumoepeau.
Replacements: 16 Chris Heard, 17 Nick White, 18 Anthony Boric, 19 Justin Collins, 20 Steve Devine, 21 David Holwell, 22 Ben Atiga


Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
Touch judges: Christie du Preez (South Africa), Stuart Dickinson (Australia)
Television match official: Andrew Lindsay (Australia)

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