New look Brumbies backline to run wild

The Brumbies have revealed a new look backline to take on the top-of-the-table, unbeaten Sharks in a Super 14 Week Eight match at ABSA Stadium in Durban on Saturday.

Julian Huxley and Peter Playford form a fresh centre pairing, after Gene Fairbanks (neck) and Stirling Mortlock (fractured hand) were ruled out following last weekend’s 38-20 loss to the Cheetahs.

The other change to the Brumbies backline sees Stephen Larkham return to fly-half after a four-week lay-off recovering from a subluxed sternoclavicular joint injury sustained against the Hurricanes in Wellington.

Huxley, who shifts from fly-half to inside centre to allow for Larkham’s return, says he is confident with his new position.

“I played the majority of last year at inside centre with the Reds so it’s not a totally new concept,” he said. “While this is my third position within the Brumbies backline this season, I have a number of experienced and in-form players around me and I’m very comfortable with my role within the team.”

Playford, who has played on the wing in each of his three career Super 14 matches, says he’s looking forward to the challenge of playing outside centre.

“I’ve played most of my career on the wing but I did play some [games] at number 13 with Tasman last season [in the Air New Zealand Cup],” he said.

“To be honest I wasn’t expecting to get my third start so soon. I broke my nose after five minutes in my first match, but I learned a lot from playing the Bulls [in my second]. While I didn’t get a lot of opportunities with the ball, it was a real learning experience in knowing where I have to be and what I have to do to take those chances.

“Stirling had a word to me and was able to give me a few tips before he left. I’m looking forward to the opportunity of showing what I can do and putting my case forward for possible starts in the future.”

Meanwhile, in the sole change to the Brumbies’ forward pack, blindside flank Jone Tawake comes into the starting XV as part of a back row rotation with Julian Salvi.

Salvi is joined on the Brumbies bench by Richard Stanford and Anthony Faingaa who return for their first appearance on the South African leg.

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

Date: Saturday, 24 March
Venue: ABSA Stadium, Durban
Kick-off: 17.00 (15.00 GMT)
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)
Touch judges: Paul Honiss (New Zealand), Christie du Preez (South Africa)
Television match official: Johann Meuwesen (South Africa)
Assessor: Tappe Henning (South Africa), Sandy MacNeil (Australia)


365 Digital

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