The Brumbies will field their top line-up in both pre-season games as they target top spot in Super Rugby’s Australian conference after the first four weeks.
Coach Jake White made no secret of his ambitions for the team on Monday, intending to emulate last season’s fast start while ensuring there’s no repeat of their late fade out when a semi-finals berth beckoned.
The Brumbies open their Super Rugby campaign against the Queensland Reds and Melbourne Rebels before a third round bye and a clash with the NSW Waratahs.
And White aims to hit the ground running by selecting the best side available for the trials games against the Western Force on Feb 1 in Darwin and an ACT XV in Canberra a week later.
“It’s already made up in my head. I know what we’re looking for and I’ve already explained that to the players,” White said of his selections for the Canberra franchise.
“In the first month we’ve got the opportunity to head the conference again and that means that we’ve got to put the best side together on the field.
“There’s no time to swap jumpers … we might as well get started and get the team that we think is going to start (the competition) playing as much as possible between now and the first round.”
In White’s first year at the helm in 2012 the unheralded Brumbies surprised to have a home final in their sights but were thrashed 36-14 in Canberra by the lowly Blues and other results helped end their dream of a first final since 2004.
Captain Ben Mowen said that Blues match still “stings” and they would use it for motivation.
“It’s spoken about a lot because it was at such an important stage of the year,” Mowen said.
“That’s going to be a loss that we can refer to to make sure our attitude is right because any time our standards slip we know we don’t get the result we’re after.”
After their fine results last year and the recruitment of Wallabies flanker David Pocock, the Brumbies have no hope of flying under the rader this year.
“We’re very comfortable with that,” Mowen said.
“We don’t want to be the side that rattles a few cages. We want to be the side that’s pushing for the finals and for that top spot.”
Centre Pat McCabe, who suffered a neck fracture on Australia’s European tour, and veteran winger Clyde Rathbone (ankle) are still possibilities to appear in round one.