The ACT Brumbies and Western Force have named their teams for Saturday night’s Super Rugby AU qualifying final in Canberra.
The Brumbies welcome back the seasoned duo of Pete Samu and Irae Simone for the must-win match. Both missed the side’s Round 9 win over the Rebels, and their inclusions bolster what is a formidable-looking home side.
Samu comes straight back into the back row at number eight, meaning Rob Valetini shifts back to his regular position on the blindside. Rory Scott starts at openside after making his debut two weeks ago, and there’s a potential debutant on the bench in the form of local product Luke Reimer.
Simone, meanwhile, takes up his spot at inside centre in place of Bayley Kuenzle, who drops out of the matchday squad.
Nic White returns to the starting lineup after coming off the bench against the Rebels, with Ryan Lonergan reverting to the pine. Props James Slipper and Scott Sio have done a similar swap at loosehead.
While the Force have gone with a settled line-up for their first-ever Super Rugby final, coach Tim Sampson has made a surprise selection at the back, naming Jake Strachan in the number 15 jersey for his first start of the year. Irishman Rob Kearney is still unavailable due to injury, while Jack McGregor has moved back to the reserves after starting at 15 last week.
“Jake’s a very talented player, he has the ability to create something out of nothing. His nickname is ‘Silky’ for a reason,” Sampson said.
With Tevita Kuridrani suspended due to his tip-tackle on Hunter Paisami last week, the Force have brought Richard Kahui into the starting side to replace his fellow veteran. Kahui made a major impact in his cameo off the bench against the Reds last week, setting up Jordan Olowofela for the game-winning try with a deft kick.
Henry Taefu has been added to the matchday 23 with Kuridrani unavailable, and Santiago Medrano will start in the front row as Greg Holmes moves to the bench.
Saturday, 7:45pm (AEST), GIO Stadium
1-15: James Slipper, Folau Fainga’a, Allan Alaalatoa (c), Darcy Swain, Cadeyrn Neville, Rob Valetini, Rory Scott, Pete Samu, Nic White, Noah Lolesio, Tom Wright, Irae Simone, Len Ikitau, Andy Muirhead, Tom Banks
Bench: Lachlan Lonergan, Scott Sio, Tom Ross, Nick Frost, Luke Reimer, Ryan Lonergan, Reesjan Pasitoa, Mack Hansen
In: Pete Samu, Irae Simone, Luke Reimer
Out: Will Miller, James Tucker, Bayley Kuenzle
1-15: Tom Robertson, Feleti Kaitu’u, Santiago Medrano, Jeremy Thrush, Sitaleki Timani, Fergus Lee-Warner, Kane Koteka, Brynard Stander, Tomás Cubelli, Domingo Miotti, Jordan Olowofela, Kyle Godwin (c), Richard Kahui, Toni Pulu, Jake Strachan
Bench: Andrew Ready, Angus Wagner, Greg Holmes, Ryan McCauley, Tim Anstee, Ian Prior, Henry Taefu, Jack McGregor
In: Henry Taefu
Out: Tevita Kurdrani