Mortlock set for move to the outside

The Brumbies will move Stirling Mortlock to his preferred outside centre position in order to sort out their misfiring backline and flyhalf Christian Lealiifano will avoid the axe.

The Canberra team will have a new look centre pairing under coach Andy Friend for Friday’s Super 14 clash against the Waratahs who are unbeaten after 4 rounds.

Friend is expected to move Stirling Mortlock to his preferred outside centre position for the first time this season and elevate Tyrone Smith into the starting team at inside centre.

Utility back Adam Ashley-Cooper will move to the wing which means that Clyde Rathbone will probably be bumped to the bench.

Francis Fainifo looks likely to retain the other wing position following his consistent start to the season, while Mark Gerrard will remain at fullback.

Christian Lealiifano and Patrick Phibbs will be the starting halves.

“We’ve had a week off to have a look at that Force game and found areas we need to address,” Friend told the Canberra Times when asked if he would make changes for the Waratahs fixture.

“The flow of our game hasn’t been what it should be and we have to have a look at our playmakers but we’ll make that announcement [today].

“The speed of our ball has been reasonable … but we’ve got to be better once we’ve got the football.”

So far Friend has resisted change to the backline in their first three matches but conceded that their attack had been too stagnant.

He admitted the time had come to shift Mortlock and bring last year’s Australian Super 14 rookie of the year Tyrone Smith back into the run-on XV at 12.

Gene Fairbanks was also being considered for the inside centre role but is likely to miss out, despite also playing well for the Brumby Runners.

“Gene has got that experience … and was tremendous [on Sunday] but Tyrone was tremendous last year and has been very good in the opportunities he’s been given this year,” Friend said.

“Stirling has shown on the Wallabies’ tour he can play No12 but from what I’ve seen this year he’s more comfortable at 13.”

Wallaby captain Mortlock said he had felt “a little off” playing inside centre this season and admitted the Brumbies backs “had not gelled or been a cohesive attacking unit” this year and accepted they had to improve if the team was to be any chance of upsetting the Waratahs.

“We probably haven’t been comfortable in our style,” Mortlock said.

“We’ve looked at our systems and playing our style and we haven’t done that consistently this year, especially against the Force.

“For me personally, I’ve played a lot of 13 and it’s not as foreign to me [as inside centre] but I’ve really enjoyed 12 as well. I’m happy to play wherever Friendy wants to pick me.”

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