The Brumbies will face the Western Force later this morning in a round nine Super Rugby AU showdown at the GIO Stadium Friday @ 11.05 am SA time.
The Brumbies are currently at the top of the competition log with one game in hand. A win today will secure a place in the playoff's later this year. The Brumbies had a great win against the Waratahs (38-11) last weekend while the Force lost 5-57 to the Reds. The Force is still desperately looking for their first win of the 2020 Super Rugby AU competition and is at the bottom of the log with only two log points.
Experienced scrumhalf Joe Powell has been recalled to the starting side for the Brumbies. Powell is the only change to the starting XV with coach Dan McKellar choosing to keep the same forward pack that defeated the Waratahs last Saturday night.
Wallabies prop James Slipper and skipper Allan Alaalatoa will again pack down with hooker Connal McInerney in the front row, while Cadeyrn Neville caps off a big week after re-signing with the club, pairing with Murray Douglas in the second row.
The backrow sees Lachlan McCaffrey starting at blindside flanker with Will Miller wearing the number seven jersey and last week's Man of the Match, Pete Samu anchoring the back of the scrum.
Powell will partner Bayley Kuenzle in the halves with the dangerous pairing of Irae Simone and Solomone Kata holding down the midfield.
After bagging another two tries last week Tom Wright remains on the wing with fellow try-scorer Andy Muirhead on the other edge and the elusive Tom Banks at fullback.
Wallaby Folau Fainga'a makes his return to the matchday squad as replacement hooker with Scott Sio and Tom Ross the finishing props, McKellar opting to return to a 5/3 bench with Darcy Swain and Rob Valetini the other forward finishers.
After making a successful return in Brumbies colours last week, Nic White will again get an opportunity off the pine alongside promising young playmaker Reesjan Pasitoa and the hard-hitting Len Ikitau.
Plus500 Brumbies coach Dan McKellar said: "It's great to have Joey back in the squad this week, he provides a lot of leadership and he'll bring a lot of energy on the field."
"The Force has been on the road a long time now and we know they'll be coming down here and throwing everything at us and we'll be ready for that tomorrow night.
"The team and the whole organisations are really pleased that we're able to have more supporters at GIO Stadium on Saturday night and we're thankful to those that have allowed that to happen."
Brumbies: 1. James Slipper, 2. Connal McInerney, 3. Allan Alaalatoa (c), 4. Murray Douglas, 5. Cadeyrn Neville, 6. Lachlan McCaffrey, 7. Will Miller, 8. Pete Samu, 9. Joe Powell, 10. Bayley Kuenzle, 11. Tom Wright, 12. Irae Simone, 13. Solomone Kata, 14. Andy Muirhead, 15. Tom Banks. Replacements: 16. Folau Fainga'a, 17. Scott Sio, 18. Tom Ross, 19. Darcy Swain, 20. Rob Valetini, 21. Nic White, 22. Reesjan Pasitoa, 23. Len Ikitau.
Centre Henry Taefu and utility back Marcel Brache will make their return to the starting line-up for the Western Force.
The changes are amongst six to the squad that lost to the Reds 57-5 in Queensland last week.
Taefu, who was on the bench last week and previously started for the Force in the first Super Rugby AU clash with the Brumbies a month ago, replaces New Zealand veteran Richard Kahui who moves to the bench.
Samoan national representative, Taefu, has performed consistently all season and will play an important role in getting the Force on the front foot whilst also providing solid defensive cover which will be crucial against the league leaders.
The versatile Brache, who featured as a centre in the previous clash with the Brumbies and last started on the left-wing against the Rebels at the end of July, makes his return on the right-wing in place of Byron Ralston.
In another change amongst the backs, Jack McGregor is restored to his more familiar role at fullback after featuring at flyhalf against the Reds last week. He replaces Jack Strachan who moves to the bench, with veteran Jono Lance back in the run-on fifteen at number 10 after playing off the bench last week.
Coach Tim Sampson has kept faith with the bulk of the forward pack that performed admirably against the Reds, with just one change made in the back row.
Henry Stowers returns to the side after missing the Reds match and Brynard Stander, who has been prominent in all six Force matches to date, moves to the bench in place of Ollie Callan.
Stander is set to earn his 50th Super Rugby cap for the club if he enters the fray in the capital, after making his debut back in February 2014 against the Waratahs.
There are two changes amongst the reserves, as hooker Feleti Kaitu’u replaces veteran Heath Tessmann, and promising young flanker Tevin Ferris will make an eagerly-awaited return from injury, replacing Johan Bardoul in the matchday 23.
Western Force: 1. Pek Cowan, 2. Andrew Ready, 3. Kieran Longbottom, 4. Jeremy Thrush, 5. Ollie Adkins, 6. Fergus Lee-Warner, 7. Kane Koteka, 8. Henry Stowers, 9. Ian Prior, 10. Jono Lance, 11. Brad Lacey, 12. Henry Taefu, 13. Kyle Godwin, 14. Michael Brache, 15. Jack McGregor. Replacements: 16. Feleti Kaitu'u, 17. Chris Heiberg, 18. Tom Steminant, 19. Trevin Ferris, 20. Brynard Stander, 21. Nick Frisby, 22. Richard Kahui, 23. Jake Strachan.
The Brumbies have won their last eight Super Rugby games against the Force on the bounce; only once before have they managed more successive wins against a single opponent (Reds – 12; 2000 - 2010).
The Brumbies have won 14 of their last 15 Super Rugby games on home turf (L1), including their last four on the bounce; they have not lost an Australian derby at home since the opening round of the 2019 season.
The Brumbies (5) and Force (3) have scored the most and second-most tries from mauls respectively in Super Rugby AU; indeed, no other team has scored more than one try via this method.
Tom Wright has scored six tries in his last six Super Rugby games for the Brumbies, including one against the Force in Round 4 of Super Rugby AU; in fact, in that game, he made career highs for carries (15), metres gained (131) and clean breaks (4).
Henry Stowers (Force) has made a competition-high 19 tackles per game in Super Rugby AU; he has also made 12 carries per game, making him one of only four players to register 10+ per game in both categories.