Brumbies v Force preview

Canberra Stadium, 19.40 (09.40 GMT)

This game can easily be billed as ‘The dance of the desperates’. While the Brumbies are sixth on the standings (with the same number of points as the fourth-placed Chiefs and fifth-placed Bulls) and the Force seventh, one point behind, there are only three matches remaining.

That means one defeat could be the end of a team’s play-off hopes.

Western Force coach John Mitchell has named what he terms his “most experienced” starting XV and readily acknowledges that victory is non-negotiable.

“There’s a lot at stake here, not just for the Force and the Brumbies, but for Australian rugby,” he said.

“It’s important one of us gets a win out of this so that Australia is represented at the business end of the season.”

He is supported in this view by Brumbies coach Laurie Fisher, who made it clear they are wary of the Force, despite the latter having suffered back-to-back defeats.

“I don’t think that any of the top seven or eight sides can afford to be dropping games at this time of the year, so I think it’s like a final for both teams,” Fisher said.

“After two losses, they’ll come here with a lot to prove and it’s a matter of us focusing on our game, our execution and our preparation.

“The danger is that their results over the past two weeks don’t necessarily reflect how they’ll perform this Friday.

“For the first eight rounds of the competition they defended very, very well, and they just have to find that way forward again.

“But there’s definitely a confidence in our side at the moment and we know that if we play well then we’ll continue to be very competitive in the competition.”

The game is also a contrast in the styles of the coaches – Fisher with his multi-phased, ball in hand approach and Mitchell with his more structured game pan.

But neither team is renowned for a strong pack, which could make this a real cliffhanger.

Prediction: The Brumbies may have lost twice in Canberra this year, but at home they are still an incredible force. The Western Force, after starting with such high hopes during their road trip in South Africa, have slipped down the pecking order in recent weeks and could slip even further this weekend. The Brumbies by 10 points or more.

Teams:

Brumbies: 15 Julian Huxley, 14 Clyde Rathbone, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Gene Fairbanks, 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 Peter Kimlin, 19 Julian Salvi, 20 Patrick Phibbs, 21 Peter Playford, 22 Francis Fainifo

Western Force: 15 Drew Mitchell, 14 Scott Staniforth, 13 Ryan Cross, 12 Junior Pelesasa, 11 Cameron Shepherd, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Matt Henjak, 8 Scott Fava, 7 David Pocock, 6 David Pusey, 5 Nathan Sharpe (c), 4 Rudi Vedelago, 3 Troy Takiari, 2 Tai McIsaac, 1 Gareth Hardy.
Replacements: 16 Luke Holmes, 17 AJ Whalley, 18 Luke Doherty, 19 Richard Brown, 20 Chris O’Young, 21 James Hilgendorf, 22 Digby Ioane.

Referee: Stuart Dickinson (Australia)
Touch judges: Paul Marks (Australia), George Ayoub (Australia)
Television match official: Andrew Lindsay (Australia)
Assessor: Wayne Erickson, Alan Bateman

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