Brumbies wait on Mortlock

The ACT Brumbies has been left to sweat on whether their star player Stirling Mortlock will play ahead of the Super 14 clash against the Blues at Canberra Stadium on Saturday.

Wallabies centre Mortlock has been given a “50-50” chance of being fit enough to captain the Brumbies as he recovers from concussion.

Brumbies coach Laurie Fisher named Mortlock in his team on Thursday, but admitted there was a good chance he would have to stay on the sidelines after picking up a heavy knock against the Chiefs last week.

Mortlock was left dazed in an early collision in that Hamilton match, won 21-15 by the Brumbies, but still finished the contest.

A final decision on Mortlock’s participation will be made on Friday.

Meanwhile, wing Mark Gerrard is out with a leg injury from win over the Chiefs last weekend, so Adam Ashley-Cooper moves from full-back to cover there.

Fly-half Julian Huxley will shift to full-back allowing Fisher to inject Wallaby playmaker Stephen Larkham back into his side.

Larkham returns after missing the Brumbies’ first-round win following the birth of his second child.

Fisher says Huxley, who was a key contributor to the Brumbies’ Hamilton win, is a valuable asset in any position on the field.

“Hux is a quality player and he’s someone that you need to find a position for in the team,” Fisher said.

“He’s got an excellent kicking game and he chewed up some massive metres for us last week against the Chiefs.

“He’s got a good appreciation for space on the field, he’s a good communicator and they’re two key attributes for a side.

“It’s also pleasing to get Steve [Larkham] back into the side. He’s a quality, experienced player and is tremendous at running a backline.”

The Brumbies have named an identical forward pack to the one that took on the Chiefs.

Fisher has opted to maintain a back row that features number eight Stephen Hoiles and regular openside flankers George Smith and Julian Salvi on either side of the scrum.

“I thought their work rate was very effective last weekend,” the Brumbies coach said.

“They challenged hard at the first breakdown which needs to continue this week against the likes of [Blues flanker] Daniel Braid.

“We’ve worked hard on our attitude at the contest and hitting our target areas to make sure we match the Blues’ intensity at the breakdown.”

Fisher has returned to a traditional seven-man bench after naming five forwards amongst his bench warmers last weekend.

Scrum-half Patrick Phibbs will deputise behind George Gregan, while rookie Peter Playford is on standby to debut if Mortlock is ruled out.

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

Date: Saturday 10 February
Venue: Canberra Stadium
Kick-off: 19:40 (08:40 GMT)
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
Touch judges: Christie du Preez (South Africa), Stuart Dickinson (Australia)
Television match official: Andrew Lindsay (Australia)

365 Digital

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