The Queensland Reds will be without James O’Connor once again for their final Super Rugby match of the year, and Suliasi Vunivalu has joined him in the casualty ward.
O’Connor was a gameday withdrawal from the Reds’ loss to the Blues with a neck complaint, while Vunivalu sustained a hamstring injury during the match.
In some positive news for the Reds, Bryce Hegarty has been given the all-clear to start in place of O’Connor at flyhalf after also missing last week’s defeat, and flanker Fraser McReight has been added to the bench following his surprise omission in Round 4.
With Hegarty back in the side, Hamish Stewart drops out of the 23, and Josh Flook comes onto the wing for Vunivalu. Angus Blyth starts at lock with Ryan Smith moving to the pine, and all of Richie Asiata, Harry Hoopert, Kalani Thomas and potential debutant Hudson Creighton have been added to the bench.
The Brumbies, meanwhile, welcome back some international experience to their starting XV for their Friday-night encounter with the Highlanders. Scrumhalf Nic White, winger Tom Wright and centre Irae Simone are back in the run-on side, with Ryan Lonergan and Solomone Kata moving to the reserves.
There’s some bad news for the Canberrans though, with flyhalf Noah Lolesio unavailable due to a “minor injury” sustained in last week’s win over the Hurricanes. Bayley Kuenzle moves to number ten in Lolesio’s place.
On the bench, there’s a chance for hooker Billy Pollard to make his Brumbies debut as he comes in for Folau Fainga’a.
The Western Force will be without scrumhalf Tomas Cubelli, who is out with a toe complaint, meaning club captain Ian Prior gets a start in the XV. However they do welcome back fullback Rob Kearney to the matchday squad via the bench for their final game of the season.
As for the Waratahs, their horrid run with injury has continued, with Jake Gordon (knee – MCL), Dave Porecki (calf), Jack Maddocks (hand) and Darcy Breen (neck) joining Angus Bell and Harry Johnson-Holmes on the sidelines.
Pek Cowan comes into the side, and Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco gets his first start at number eight following his mid-year move from Japan. Tom Horton, James Ramm and Hugh Sinclair have all been recalled after injury lay-offs.
The tough injury toll in Australia extends to the Rebels, as captain Matt To’omua has been ruled out of their clash against the Crusaders with a neck injury. Glen Vaihu replaces him in the centres, while Young Tonumaipea and Ilikena Vudogo in line for their Super Rugby debuts off the bench.
The Highlanders get a boost with Aaron Smith returning to the starting side at scrumhalf as they look to qualify for the Trans-Tasman final.
For the Hurricanes, Ngani Laumape will play his final game for the club against the Reds, and all of Reed Prinsep, Peter Umaga-Jensen and Asafo Aumua have been added to the side.
The Blues have announced their line-up for Saturday’s encounter with the Force, welcoming back Josh Goodhue, Marcel Renata and Ray Niula for the must-win match.
Prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi is the biggest name to be missing from the Aucklanders’ side as he rests to take care of a lingering knee issue.
The Crusaders are almost at full strength as they attempt to snag a spot in the final. Richie Mo’unga, Sam Whitelock, Sevu Reece and Ethan Blackadder are amongst the inclusions for the Aotearoa champions, although they will be without hooker Codie Taylor.
Brad Weber comes back into the Chiefs’ starting XV for their game against the Tahs, as does winger Sean Wainui. Anton Lienert-Brown gets a bit of a breather on the bench as Quinn Tupaea partners Alex Nankivell in the centres.
Friday, 5:05pm (AEST), Sky Stadium
(1-15): Xavier Numia, Asafo Aumua, Tyrel Lomax, James Blackwell, Scott Scrafton, Reed Prinsep, Du’Plessis Kirifi, Ardie Savea (c), Cam Roigard, Ruben Love, Wes Goosen, Ngani Laumape, Billy Proctor, Julian Savea, Jordie Barrett
Bench: Dane Coles, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Alex Fidow, Liam Mitchell, Devan Flanders, Luke Campbell, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Salesi Rayesi
(1-15): Feao Fotuaika, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Taniela Tupou, Angus Blyth, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Angus Scott-Young, Liam Wright (c), Harry Wilson, Tate McDermott, Bryce Hegarty, Filipo Daugunu, Isaac Henry, Hunter Paisami, Josh Flook, Mac Grealy
Bench: Josh Nasser, Harry Hoopert, Zane Nonggorr, Ryan Smith, Fraser McReight, Kalani Thomas, Hudson Creighton, Moses Sorovi
Friday, 7:45pm (AEST), GIO Stadium
(1-15): Scott Sio, Lachlan Lonergan, Allan Alaalatoa (c), Darcy Swain, Nick Frost, Rob Valetini, Rory Scott, Henry Stowers, Nic White, Bayley Kuenzle, Mack Hansen, Irae Simone, Len Ikitau, Tom Wright, Tom Banks
Bench: Billy Pollard, Harry Lloyd, Tom Ross, Tom Hooper, Luke Reimer, Ryan Lonergan, Reesjan Pasitoa, Solomone Kata
(1-15): Ethan De Groot, Ash Dixon (c), Siate Tokolahi, Bryn Evans, Pari Pari Parkinson, Hugh Renton, Billy Harmon, Kazuki Himeno, Aaron Smith (c), Mitch Hunt, Jona Nareki, Scott Gregory, Michael Collins, Sio Tomkinson, Josh Ioane
Bench: Liam Coltman, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Josh Hohneck, Josh Dickson, James Lentjes, Kayne Hammington, Sam Gilbert, Teariki Ben-Nicholas
Saturday, 2:35pm (AEST), Leichhardt Oval
(1-15): Cameron Orr, Jordan Uelese, Cabous Eloff, Rob Leota, Trevor Hosea, Michael Wells (c), Richard Hardwick, Isi Naisarani, Joe Powell, Carter Gordon, Marika Koroibete, Glen Vaihu, Andrew Kellaway, Frank Lomani, George Worth
Bench: James Hanson, Matt Gibbon, Rhys Van Neck, Steve Cummins, Ross Haylett-Petty, James Tuttle, Young Tonumaipea, Ilikena Vudogo
(1-15): George Bower, Brodie McAlister, Michael Alaalatoa, Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett (c), Ethan Blackadder, Sione Havili Talitui, Whetukamokamo Douglas, Mitchell Drummond, Richie Mo’unga, Leicester Fainga’anuku, David Havili, Braydon Ennor, Sevu Reece, Will Jordan
Bench: Nathan Vella, Tamaiti Williams, Oliver Jager, Mitchell Dunshea, Tom Sanders, Bryn Hall, Dallas McLeod, Manasa Mataele
Saturday, 5:05pm (AEST), Eden Park
(1-15): Alex Hodgman, Kurt Eklund, Nepo Laulala, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Patrick Tuipulotu (c), Tom Robinson, Dalton Papalii, Hoskins Sotutu, Finlay Christie, Otere Black, Mark Telea, TJ Faiane, Rieko Ioane, Bryce Heem, Zarn Sullivan
Bench: Ray Niula, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Marcel Renata, Josh Goodhue, Akira Ioane, Jonathan Ruru, Harry Plummer, AJ Lam
Tom Robertson, Feleti Kaitu’u, Santiago Medrano, Jeremy Thrush, Sitaleki Timani, Fergus Lee-Warner, Kane Koteka, Ollie Callan, Ian Prior, Jake McIntyre, Jordan Olowofela, Kyle Godwin (c), Tevita Kuridrani, Richard Kahui, Jake Strachan
Bench: Andrew Ready, Angus Warner, Greg Holmes, Ryan McCauley, Brynard Stander, Michael McDonald, Domingo Miotti, Rob Kearney
Saturday, 7:45pm (AEST), Brookvale Oval
(1-15): Andrew Tuala, Tom Horton, Tetera Faulkner, Hugh Sinclair, Jack Whetton, Lachie Swinton, Jack Dempsey, Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, Jack Grant, Will Harrison, James Ramm, Lalakai Foketi, Izaia Perese, Alex Newsome (c), Mark Nawaqanitawase
Bench: Robbie Abel, Pek Cowan, Chris Talakai, Sam Caird, Jeremy Williams, Will Harris, Henry Robertson, Tane Edmed
(1-15): Aidan Ross, Bradley Slater, Angus Ta’avao, Zane Kapeli, Tupou Vaa’i, Pita Gus Sowakula, Lachlan Boshier, Luke Jacobson, Brad Weber (c), Bryn Gatland, Sean Wainui, Quinn Tupaea, Alex Nankivell, Shaun Stevenson, Kaleb Trask
Bench: Samisoni Taukei’aho, Ollie Norris, Reuben O’Neill, Viliami Taulani, Tom Florence, Xavier Roe, Anton Lienert-Brown, Chase Tiatia