Mortlock sits out another week

Brumbies coach Laurie Fisher has added three new faces to his starting line-up to play the Bulls in their Super 14 Round Five match on Saturday in Canberra.

Front-rower Salesi Ma’afu and rookie outside centre Matt Carraro will make their run-on debuts for the Brumbies having played the first four rounds off the bench.

Ma’afu replaces Guy Shepherdson in the starting line-up at tight-head prop while Carraro comes in for captain Stirling Mortlock who is still feeling the effects of high tackle from Reds centre Lloyd Johansson a fortnight ago.

Explosive Fijian-born back-rower Jone Tawake will make his first run-on appearance for the Brumbies this season, swapping with flanker Julian Salvi who has been named on the bench.

Carraro says he is excited about the prospect of starting his first Super 14 match.

“When I came down here originally [for the Australian Provincial Championship], I would have never have expected to be making my Super 14 run-on debut for the Brumbies six months later,” he said.

“Obviously Stirlo is a big loss to the side, but I’ll be looking to do the basics right and make the most of this opportunity.”

Fisher says the match provides an excellent chance for the 22-year-old.

“Stirlo’s not quite feeling 100 percent and it’s just not worth taking the risk,” he said.

“But, in saying that, it’s a wonderful opportunity for Matt. In the few cameos he’s had for us he’s been really sound with a couple of very good defensive efforts. I think he’s excited by the opportunity and he’ll be playing at his best on Saturday night.”

Fisher says it was important to rotate his squad.

“We’ve got tremendous depth in the side this year and the last thing we need is players getting stale on the bench,” he said. “We saw this as an opportunity to give some players some quality game time which can only benefit the team as the season goes on.

“Salesi has worked very hard in the first few rounds and this was a good opportunity to reward him with his first start. Jone hasn’t started since the Blues match last year and being a player who can have a big impact on a game, it was important for us to give him some extra game time.”

The other change to the Brumbies’ backline sees utility back Julian Huxley move to fly-half for the injured Stephen Larkham who sustained a sterno-clavicular joint injury against the Hurricanes. Adam Ashley-Cooper drops from outside centre to fullback.

Peter Playford returns to the side after breaking his nose in his Super 14 debut against the Blues a fortnight ago while Super 14 debutant Francis Fainifo also comes into the squad.

Fisher says the next fortnight is crucial for the two-time Super Rugby champions.

“These next two matches are very important to us in the context of our season,” he said.

“While we could easily be four from four, we’ve dropped two matches – albeit by one and two points – and we really need to get two wins at home in the next two weeks before we head to South Africa.”

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

Venue: Canberra Stadium, Canberra
Date: 3 March 2007
Kick-off: 19.10 (8.10 GMT)
Referee: Lyndon Bray (New Zealand)
Touch judges: Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Geoff Acton (Australia)
Television match official: Paul Marks (Australia)

365 Digital

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