Brumbies keen to target Highlanders No.9
The Brumbies are making no secret of their intention to target All Blacks halfback Jimmy Cowan in Friday’s Super 14 season-opener against the Highlanders in Dunedin.
The Highlanders’ game revolves around their inspirational No.9, who stands head and shoulders above his teammates in terms of experience.
The 26-year-old is the side’s most capped Super rugby player and one of only five in the squad with more than 20 games experience.
His 19 Test caps virtually double the international experience of the side’s only other two All Blacks, Adam Thomson (nine Tests) and Jamie Mackintosh (one).
“He’s their heart and soul so I feel if we can put a bit of pressure on him, hopefully they won’t perform as well,” said opposite number Patrick Phibbs after winning the battle for the Brumbies’ No.9 jersey on Wednesday.
“That’s just one of the goals for the game I suppose and we’ll just go from there because he does get them on the front foot.”
Renowned as a tough defender, Phibbs has pipped highly rated Josh Holmes for the Brumbies’ starting spot after impressive performances in trials against the Hurricanes and NSW.
“It just worked out that I played all right in the two games and made the most of my opportunities,” Phibbs told AAP from Dunedin.
“I’ve just worked on my all-round game this year … and it tends to be showing a bit on the field.
“I definitely wanted the starting position, that was my number one goal for this year.”
Phibbs and Holmes scored a try each in the clash with the Canes in Canberra before a solid performance against the Waratahs gave the 27-year-old the edge.
“We’ve got a very unified team here so he wished me the best of luck and we’ll go from there,” said Phibbs of his rival.
“It’s great to have that bit of competition breathing down on you because it spurs you on to play better.”
Both franchises named teams on Wednesday for the Carisbrook match, with Friend opting to retain the Wallaby centre pairing of Stirling Mortlock and Adam Ashley-Cooper, and former Test winger Mark Gerrard at fullback.
Another former Wallaby winger, Clyde Rathbone, will play his first Super 14 game since March 2007 after making a successful return in the trials from a serious knee injury.
Highlanders coach Glenn Moore named a raw backline, with up to five debutants out wide.
“We’ve watched the last couple of trials they’ve played,” Phibbs said of the Brumbies’ opponents.
“They usually tend to play the same sort of game. They keep it in the forwards a bit.
“But we’ve noticed this year they’ve got a bit of a trend. They’ve got a few new attacking backs which is a new dynamic, and young blokes too.
“So I’m sure they’re definitely going to spin it wide and have a go at us.”
Brumbies: Mark Gerrard, Clyde Rathbone, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Stirling Mortlock, Francis Fainifo, Christian Lealiifano, Patrick Phibbs, Stephen Hoiles (capt), George Smith, Julian Salvi, Mark Chisholm, Ben Hand, Guy Shepherdson, Stephen Moore, Nic Henderson. Res: John Ulugia, Ben Alexander, Sitaleki Timani, Peter Kimlin, Josh Holmes, Tyrone Smith, Matt Toomua.
Highlanders: Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Jason Shoemark, Johnny Leota/Jayden Hayward, Fetu’u Vainikolo, Daniel Bowden, Jimmy Cowan (capt), Steven Setephano, Alando Soakai, Adam Thomson, Hayden Triggs, Josh Bekhuis, Clint Newland, David Hall, Jamie Mackintosh. Res: Jason Rutledge, Chris King, George Naoupu, Tim Boys, Sean Romans, Jayden Hayward/Brett Mather, Kenny Lynn.© AAP 2013
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