Can The Force Break A Seven-Year Drought Against Brumbies

The Brumbies will face the Western Force this Saturday at the Leichhardt Oval from on Saturday 11:15 SA Time. The Brumbies have won their last seven Super Rugby games against the Force in succession; their last defeat to the Western Australian outfit came in Round 20, 2013, they have never lost to them by a margin of more than nine points. The Western Force lost their game against the Reds (24-31) last weekend while the Brumbies just pipped the Waratahs (24-23). 

The Brumbies head coach Dan McKellar made several changes to the matchday squad. Powerhouse winger Solomone Kata will make his first appearance for the Brumbies in the Vodafone Super Rugby AU competition. Bayley Kuenzle will wear the number 10 jersey for the first time after steering the team to their gritty win over the Waratahs last weekend.

Wallabies prop Scott Sio starts for the first time in the new competition and will partner fellow Test players Allan Alaalatoa and Folau Fainga'a in the front three. 

Promising youngster Nick Frost will make his first appearance in the run-on side, packing down next to Murray Douglas in the second row.

Will Miller will join Rob Valetini and Pete Samu in a familiar backrow with Joe Powell to partner Kuenzle in their first outing as a halves pair.

Irae Simone and Tevita Kuridrani will combine again in the midfield with Tom Banks, Tom Wright and Kata the back three.

Connal McInerney is the replacement hooker, while Canberra local Harry Lloyd is set to see game time against his former club as the replacement loosehead, with versatile James Slipper set to swap sides of the scrum as the tighthead finisher.

The recently returned Ben Hyne will be back in Brumbies colours for the first time since July 2017, with Lachlan McCaffrey to provide experience in the late stages of the match.

Last weekend's match-winner and former Force scrumhalf Issak Fines will again provide spark off the bench with Mack Hansen and Andy Muirhead rounding out the matchday 23.

Brumbies coach Dan McKellar said: "It's great to have Sol back in the team, he had a solid start to the year and he's chomping at the bit to contribute on Saturday night."

"We're really excited to see BK in the number 10 jersey, he's been a part of our system for a while now and he did a good job there for us last weekend.

"Frosty's been training the house down all year and he's really earned his first start and I'm sure he'll deliver against a really good Force outfit on Saturday night."

Brumbies: 1. Scott Sio, 2. Folau Fainga'a, 3. Allan Alaalatoa (c), 4. Murray Douglas, 5. Nick Frost, 6. Rob Valetini, 7. Will Miller, 8. Pete Samu, 9. Joe Powell, 10. Bayley Kuenzle, 11. Tom Wright, 12. Irae Simone, 13. Tevita Kuridrani, 14. Solomone Kata, 15. Tom Banks. Replacements: 16. Connal McInerney, 17. Harry Lloyd, 18. James Slipper, 19. Ben Hyne, 20. Lachlan McCaffrey, 21. Issak Fines, 22. Mack Hansen, 23. Andy Muirhead.

The Western Force made four changes to their matchday squad. Lock Jeremy Thrush was appointed as the captain for the game against the Brumbies. The veteran lock’s promotion to captain comes as the Force make four changes to their match squad, including the sidelining of regular skipper Ian Prior through injury.

Prior’s replace at scrumhalf will be taken by Wallaby Nick Frisby, who joined the Force earlier this month after several seasons in the UK, most recently with the Glasgow Warriors. In another change to the starting XV, inside centre Henry Taefu is promoted to the starting line-up in place of Nick Jooste, who drops out of the match 23 this week.

Thrush is an experienced campaigner who has previously captained the Hurricanes and has more than 100 Super Rugby caps to his credit. His leadership from the centre of the pack will be a key factor for the Force against the Brumbies, who so far have two wins from as many starts in the competition.

Frisby spent five seasons with the Queensland Reds, earning 66 Super Rugby caps, before moving to the UK. Taefu, meanwhile, returns to the starting line-up after being on the bench for the clashes against the Waratahs and the Reds. He has played a crucial role for the Force over the past two seasons, as well as representing Samoa in the 2019 World Cup, and will add a physical edge in the Force midfield.

There are two changes on the bench where former All Black Richard Kahui, who signed for the Force last week, and young prop Tom Sheminant have been brought into the match 23.

Kahui, who has spent the past seven years playing in Japan and has 68 previous Super Rugby caps for the Chiefs and the Highlanders, takes Taefu’s place among the reserves as cover at centre or wing. The 2011 World Cup winner is highly rated by Force director of rugby Matt Hodgson who is eager to see him get his first run in the blue and black.

“It’s not just his on-field exploits that we’re excited about, as his insight and winning mentality are sure to prove invaluable for the entire team,” Hodgson said.

“His knowledge of the game, defensive ability and the level of professionalism he brings to training will be huge for our season.”

Home-grown Nedlands talent Sheminant replaces injured veteran Wallaby prop Greg Holmes, who featured against the Waratahs and the Reds over the past two weeks.

Western Force: 1. Angus Wagner, 2. Feleti Kaitu’u, 3. Kieran Longbottom, 4. Jeremy Thrush, 5. Fergus titionLee Warner, 6. Henry Stowers, 7. Tevin Ferris, 8. Brynard Stander, 9. Nick Frisby, 10. Jono Lance, 11. Brad Lacey, 12. Henry Taefu, 13. Marcel Brache, 14. Byron Ralston, 15. Jack McGregor. Replacements: 16. Andrew Ready, 17. Chris Heiberg, 18. Tom Sheminant, 19. Ollie Atkins, 20. Ollie Callan, 21. Jacob Abel, 22. Richard Kahui, 23. Kyle Godwin.

Opta Facts

The Brumbies have won their last seven Super Rugby games against the Force in succession; their last defeat to the Western Australian outfit came in Round 20, 2013; they have never lost to them by a margin of more than nine points.

The Force have lost their last six games against the Brumbies in Super Rugby outside Western Australia, scoring an average of just 15 points per game across that stretch.

The Brumbies have won 14 of their last 16 Super Rugby games, including their last five on the bounce; the last time they were defeated by a fellow Australian outfit was in Round 6, 2019 (vs Reds).

The Force has gained an average of 454 metres per game in Super Rugby AU, the most of any team, including 560m against the Reds in Round 3 – their third-most in a single Super Rugby game in the last decade.

Brumbies’ hooker Folau Fainga’a has scored two tries from two games in Super Rugby AU, more than any other forward; in fact, his career tally of 22 tries is the second-most of any hooker in the last decade of Super Rugby (Malcolm Marx – 30).