SUPER RUGBY QUALIFICATION FINAL IN
BRUMBIES vs FORCE, Saturday 7:45 p.m. AEST at GIO stadium
Brumbies coach Dan McKellar welcomed Wallabies James Slipper, Nic White, Pete Samu and Irae Simone to a powerful starting squad for Saturday’s qualifying final against the Force.
Samu’s return to No.8 allows Rob Valetini to return to his preferred flank position on the blind side while Rory Scott holds his place on the open side after an impressive start before the bye.
Loose forward Luke Reimer is in line for his Super Rugby debut on the bench.
“It’s good to see Luke take his chance, he’s been kind and patient and has worked really hard for his club over the past two weeks,” said McKellar.
“He is excited and I know his family is heavily invested in his career and I know they will be excited and proud of him.
“The Force has some momentum right now after the Rebels and Waratahs won too and they played well against the Reds last week and they deserve their chance.
“At the end of the day, it comes down to the team that comes with the greatest intention and wants to dominate the crashes and seize their opportunities, that’s who usually wins the semi-finals.”
Meanwhile, strength trainer Tim Sampson created a surprise by giving little-known Jake Strachan a start in the back for the high-stakes clash.
Sampson was convinced Irish great Rob Kearney would be in good shape for Saturday, but the veteran’s groin injury still hasn’t been healed enough.
Kearney was named to start at No.15 for last week’s clash with the Reds, but was a late withdrawal and Jack McGregor started in his place.
McGregor is on the bench for the qualifying final with Sampson opting instead for Queensland product Strachan, 23, who will make his first start of the season.
“Jake is a very talented player, he has the ability to create something from nothing,” said Sampson.
“His nickname is ‘Silky’ for a reason.”
Elsewhere, former All Black Richard Kahui is an obvious selection in the away center in place of suspended Tevita Kuridrani, while Sampson also picked Argentina Test lead Santiago Medrano to start ahead of former Wallaby Greg Holmes. .
“It was fantastic to win at home and to give our fans the opportunity to be a part of the story that we created last week,” said Sampson.
“We take the momentum and the belief that no matter what situation we find ourselves in, we can come away with victory.
The belief has been there since the first round, it hasn’t changed. “
BRUMBIES (15-1): Tom Banks, Andy Muirhead, Len Ikitau, Irae Simone, Tom Wright, Noah Lolesio, Nic White, Pete Samu, Rory Scott, Rob Valetini, Cadeyrn Neville, Darcy Swain, Allan Alaalatoa (c), Folau Fainga’a, James Slipper
Reserves: Lachlan Lonergan, Scott Sio, Tom Ross, Nick Frost, Luke Reimer, Ryan Lonergan, Reesjan Pasitoa, Mack Hansen
STRENGTH (15-1): Jake Strachan, Toni Pulu, Richard Kahui, Kyle Godwin (c), Jordan Olowofela, Domingo Miotti, Tomas Cubelli, Brynard Stander, Kane Koteka, Tim Anstee, Sitaleki Timani, Jeremy Thrush, Santiago Medrano, Feleti Kaitu’u, Tom Robertson
Reserves: Andrew Ready, Angus Wagner, Greg Holmes, Ryan McCauley, Fergus Lee-Warner, Ian Prior, Henry Taefu, Jack McGregor