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COMPLETE SRP teams Round 3: Brumbies unleash Test duo, Reds pick and stick, Cron wields axe, Wallabies back for Tahs

9th March, 2023
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9th March, 2023
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Queensland Reds have stuck with rookie No. 10 Tom Lynagh ahead of returning veteran James O’Connor for their match against the Brumbies while their hosts have made four changes for the Canberra clash.

After two heavy defeats, the Highlanders’ best player Aaron Smith returns to help ahead of their gigantic task against the Chiefs.

In Melbourne, the Rebels have also got one of their big props back but their opponents, the Waratahs, have two Wallabies forwards returning too.

The Drua also return to Fiji ahead of their first home game against the Crusaders, while Wellington and Canberra prepare to host two big local derbies.

Scroll down for all the latest team news:

Friday

Chiefs vs Highlanders, 5:05pm AEDT

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Aaron Smith returns at halfback for the Highlanders, but will it matter? The Highlanders have been dealt the hardest start to Super Rugby. After challenging matches against the Blues and Crusaders, Clarke Dermody’s side must head to Waikato to take on the in-form Chiefs.

The match promises to be another challenge for the Highlanders, who have been belted in back to badck matches to start the year.

Dermody has made a tweak to his side, recalling Mitch Hunt at fly-half and shifting for England playmaker Freddie Burns to fullback.

Smith’s return at half-back helps, but it is up front that the Highlanders will be tested against an explosive and intimidating pack.

Aaron Smith of the Highlanders prepares to feed a scrum

Aaron Smith’s return is a welcomed one for the Highlanders as they prepare to play the Chiefs. Photo: Joe Allison/Getty Images

The Chiefs have no shortage of All Blacks stars, with Samisoni Taukei’aho the in-form hooker of the competition while Brodie Retallick and Tupou Vaa’i offer height and power in the middle.

Pita Gus Sowakula drops back to the bench for Naitoa Ah Kuoi and joins Sam Cane and Luke Jacobson in a well balanced back-row.

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Chiefs (1-15): Aidan Ross, Samisoni Taukei’aho, John Ryan, Brodie Retallick, Tupou Vaa’i, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Sam Cane (c), Luke Jacobson, Brad Weber, Damian McKenzie, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Rameka Poihipi, Alex Nankivell, Emoni Narawa, Shaun Stevenson.

Reserves: Bradley Slater, Ollie Norris, George Dyer, Pita Gus Sowakula, Samipeni Finau, Cortez Ratima, Josh Ioane, Daniel Rona.

Highlanders (1-15): Ethan de Groot, Rhys Marshall, Jermaine Ainsley, Pari-Pari Parkinson, Josh Dickson, Shannon Frizell, James Lentjies (c), Hugh Renton, Aaron Smith, Mitch Hunt, Mosese Dawai, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Josh Timu, Martin Bogado, Freddie Burns.

Reserves: Leni Apisai, Ayden Johnstone, Saula Mau, Fabian Holland, Sean Withy, Kemara Hauiti Parapara, Fetuli Paea, Connor Garden-Bachop.

Referee: Paul Williams

Key facts: The Highlanders have lost 12 straight matches against their New Zealand rivals. Interestingly, the Highlanders have the second slowest ruck speed (3.2 seconds) to start the year while the Chiefs have the second fastest (2.7sec).

Rebels vs Waratahs, 7:35pm AEDT

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After their inspired second half against the Hurricanes, Kevin Foote’s Rebels will be eager to convert a narrow defeat into an important win.

The Rebels put in a much-improved 80 minute effort against the Hurricanes, but came unstuck at the death.

But they should have gained some confidence by the team effort, which saw the Rebels’ bench add plenty of impetus to their performance.

Cabous Eloff returns to the starting side for the Rebels in the absence of Sam Talakai.

Otherwise, Foote has named a very settled side with Trevor Hosea starting to make his presence felt after missing last season.

Josh Kemeny has been promoted back to the starting side and joins the in-form Brad Wilkin and Richard Hardwick in the back-row. It’s an unchanged backline.

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Their opponents, the Waratahs, have named a settled side from the one that overcame Fiji to win comfortably.

Ned Hanigan of the Waratahs looks on

Ned Hanigan will make his return to the Waratahs via the bench. Photo: Dianne Manson/Getty Images

Harry Johnson-Holmes is the only change to the side, with the Wallaby prop returning for Archer Holz, who has been battling a rib injury.

Mahe Vailanu rotates back into the side for Tolu Latu, while Ned Hanigan comes onto the bench ahead of Will Harris.

Hanigan’s return is another sign of the depth being built at the Waratahs, with Harris and Latu not picked.

Rebels (1-15): Matt Gibbon, Alex Mafi, Cabous Eloff, Josh Canham, Trevor Hosea, Josh Kemeny, Brad Wilkin (c), Richard Hardwick, Ryan Louwrens, Carter Gordon, Monty Ioane, Stacey Ili, Reece Hodge, Lachie Anderson, Joe Pincus.

Reserves: Jordan Uelese, Cameron Orr, Pone Fa’amausili, Tuiana Taii Tualima, Vaiolini Ekuasi, James Tuttle, Lukas Ripley, Nick Jooste.

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Waratahs (1-15): Tom Lambert, Dave Porecki, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Jed Holloway, Hugh Sinclair, Lachlan Swinton, Michael Hooper, Langi Gleeson, Jake Gordon, Tane Edmed, Max Jorgensen, Lalakai Foketi, Izaia Perese, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Ben Donaldson.

Reserves: Mahe Vailanu, Te Tera Faulkner, Daniel Botha, Taleni Seu, Ned Hanigan, Charlie Gamble, Teddy Wilson, Ben Dowling.

Referee: Angus Gardner

Key fact: The Rebels have won two of their last three home matches against the Waratahs at home. The Rebels’ set-piece is on fire; they have the highest lineout success rate (94%) and are one of two teams along with the Crusaders with a 100% scrum rate.

Saturday

Drua vs Crusaders, 2:35pm AEDT

Champions Crusaders are bracing for a hot reception when they travel to Fiji this weekend.

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Captain Scott Barrett will bring up a century of games for the club – he debuted in 2014 in an exhibition match against England.

Willi Heinz returns after a stint overseas while David Havili returns to the mid field. The Crusaders have three likely debutants on the bench – front rowers Ioane Moananu and Kershawl Sykes-Martin and backline replacement Taha Kemara.

All Blacks Joe Moody, Codie Taylor, Richie Mo’unga and Leicester Fainga’anuku have been rested, while midfielder Jack Goodhue (groin) and hooker Brodie McAlister (head) are injured.

Crusaders assistant coach Scott Hansen said: “Some boys will be making their debut, and others will be playing their first game for the Crusaders for awhile. We’re excited for all those boys and their families.”

Drua: Meli Tuni, Tevita Ikanivere (c), Jone Koroiduadua, Isoa Nasilasila, Leone Rotuisolia, Joseva Tamani, Kitione Salawa, Elia Canakaivata, Frank Lomani, Teti Tela, Eroni Sau, Apisalome Vota, Iosefo Masi, Selestino Ravutaumada, Ilaisa Droasese.

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Reserves: Mesulame Dolokoto, Emosi Tuqiri, Samuela Tawake, Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, Meli Derenalagi, Peni Matawalu, Kemu Valetini, Kalaveti Ravouvou.

Crusaders (1-15): George Bower, Quentin MacDonald, Tamaiti Williams, Scott Barrett, Sam Whitelock, Sione Havili Talitui, Tom Christie, Christian Lio-Willie, Willi Heinz, Fergus Burke, Macca Springer, David Havili, Braydon Ennor, Sevu Reece, Chay Fihaki.

Reserves: Ioane Moananu, Kershawl Sykes-Martin, Seb Calder, Zach Gallagher, Corey Kellow, Noah Hotham, Taha Kemara, Dallas McLeod.

Referee: Brendon Pickerill

Hurricanes vs Blues, 5:05pm AEDT

New Zealand under-20 international Peter Lakai will replace suspended No. 8 Ardie Savea against the Blues.

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Former Crusaders playmaker Brett Cameron will make his Hurricanes debut and Devan Flanders replaces Brayden Iose.

All Blacks hooker Dane Coles takles over from Savea who was rubbed out for one week for his throat-slitting gesture against the Rebels.

The Blues have made just one change despite their loss to the Brumbies last week and that was injury enforced with AJ Lam replacing Mark Telea, who suffered a head knock.


The bench sees Alex Hodgman coming in to replace Ofa Tuungafasi as backup loosehead after the All Blacks prop also suffered a head knock in the 25-20 defeat to the Brumbies.

Hurricanes (1-15): Xavier Numia, Dane Coles, Tyrel Lomax, James Blackwell, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Devan Flanders, Du’Plessis Kirifi, Peter Lakai, Cameron Roigard, Brett Cameron, Salesi Rayasi, Jordie Barrett, Billy Proctor, Julian Savea, Josh Moorby.

Reserves: Asafo Aumua, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Pasilio Tosi, Caleb Delany, TK Howden, Jamie Booth, Aidan Morgan, Riley Higgins.

Blues (1-15): Joshua Fusitu’a, Ricky Riccitelli,`James Lay, Patrick Tuipulotu, Cameron Suafoa, Tom Robinson, Dalton Papalii, Hoskins Sotutu, Finlay Christie, Beauden Barrett, Caleb Clarke, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Rieko Ioane, AJ Lam, Stephen Perofeta.

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Reserves: Kurt Eklund, Alex Hodgman, Nepo Laulala, James Tucker, Adrian Choat, Taufa Funaki, Bryce Heem.

Referee: Nic Berry

Key facts: The Hurricanes’ 32 offloads are four more than any other team in the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season, with four of those resulting in a break assist –also the joint-most of any team.

The Blues have scored four tries on the back of possession begun with a turnover won this Super Rugby Pacific season, more than any other team in the competition; although, the Hurricanes have conceded only one try via this method.

Brumbies vs Reds, 7:35pm AEDT

Reds coach Brad Thorn named an unchanged XV and only one change in his 23 for the blockbuster clash with the Brumbies after the record-breaking 71-20 win over Western Force.

Connor Vest will make his return to the side via the bench after overcoming a thumb injury.

Thorn said: “We face the Brumbies this week. They’ve started the season strongly with two good wins. They’re one of the form sides in the competition and we know we have a tough game in front of us. We’re looking forward to the contest.”

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In contrast, the Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham has made four changes to his starting side, including first starts of the season for Wallabies halves Nic White and Noah Lolesio.

White will lead the team out as captain in place of Allan Alaalatoa, who is missing from the 23, with Rhys Van Nek starting at tighthead prop.
 
Ollie Sapsford earns a start at inside centre for the first time in Super Rugby having made his run-on debut in last season’s semi final.

Former Australian Sevens flyer Ben O’Donnell earns a place in the Brumbies gameday 23 for the first time and will become Brumby #250 if and when he joins the action.
 
Larkham said: “We’re pleased with the first two weeks and Saturday represents another chance to build into the season.”
 
“We’ve rotated quality for quality in a couple of areas and we’re confident this is the right group to perform for us on Saturday night.
 
“It’s a big game for our organisation, first game as the ACT Brumbies since 2004 at our home ground and we’re tracking for a big crowd so we’re ready to go.”

Brumbies (1-15): James Slipper, Lachlan Lonergan, Rhys Van Nek, Nick Frost, Cadeyrn Neville, Rob Valetini, Rory Scott, Pete Samu, Nic White, Noah Lolesio, Corey Toole, Ollie Sapsford, Len Ikitau, Andy Muirhead, Tom Wright.

Reserves: Connal McInerney, Blake Schoupp, Tom Ross, Darcy Swain, Luke Reimer, Ryan Lonergan, Jack Debreczeni,
Ben O’Donnell.

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Reds (1-15): Dane Zander, Matt Faessler, Zane Nonggorr, Ryan Smith, Seru Uru, Liam Wright, Fraser McReight, Harry Wilson, Tate McDermott, Tom Lynagh, Filipo Daugunu, Hunter Paisami, Josh Flook, Suliasi Vunivalu, Jordan Petaia.

Reserves: Richie Asiata, Sef Fa’agase, Peni Ravai, Connor Vest, Jake Upfield, Kalani Thomas, James O’Connor,
Jock Campbell.

Referee: James Doleman

Key facts: The Reds have won four of their last five Super Rugby games against Brumbies (L1), however, three of those wins have come by margins of just three points or fewer and they lost on their most recent visit to Brumbies’ home ground (12-16 in March 2022). The Brumbies have won 17 of their past 18 home games at GIO Stadium against Australian opposition. The Reds have won seven of their last nine on the road against Aussie opposition.

The Brumbies have a tackle success rate this season of 78 percent – the second highest in the comp after the Chiefs (79 percent).

Force vs Pasifika, 10pm AEDT

Simon Cron has made six changes to the starting side thumped by the reds last week, although two are enforced.

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Skipper Michael Wells and Jeremy Williams miss out after suffering concussions in the 71-20 loss.

Ian Prior returns to the starting line up at No.9 and takes over as vice captain with Jeremy Thrush named as skipper..

Rahboni Vosayaco will make his Force debut frokm the start with another potential debutant, Nikilao Foliaki, on the bench.

Toni Pulu is back in the mix on the left wing, after sustaining a concussion in Round 1 against the Rebels.

MP coach Aaron Mauger has made nine changes to the starting line up from last weekend in a decision that was largely injury-forced.

Michael Curry (neck), Samuel Slade (ribs) and Christian Lealiiifano (concussion) are all unavailable.

A new look starting front row combination of Abraham Pole, Samiuela Moli and Suetena Asomua will run out on Saturday. Counties Manukau lock Alex McRobbie receives his first start for the year and will combine with Southland Stag Mike McKee in the second row.

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After an impressive debut last weekend, Miracle Faiilagi retains his spot at blindside flanker. Lotu Inisi will start at number eight to anchor the scrum and ‘Ikale Tahi loose forward Solomone Funaki will captain the team from the No. 7 jersey in the absence of Lealiifano.

Ereatara Enari returns to the starting line up with Manu Paea returning to the bench. The experienced halfback will combine with Lincoln McClutchie who features for the first time this year.

Danny Toala moved up from fullback in to second five and will play inside Fine Inisi in a midfield combination yet to feature for Moana Pasifika.

The wingers remain unchained with Timoci Tavatavanawai on the right and Anzelo Tuitavuki on the left. William Havili will drive the game from fullback.

A debut looks for lock Potu Leavasa off the bench while former Western Force midfielder Henry Taefu returns to his old club.

Force (1-15): Tom Robertson, Folau Fainga’a, Santiago Medrano, Felix Kalapu Jr, Jeremy Thrush, Tim Anstee, Ollie Callan, Rahboni Vosayaco, Ian Prior, Bryce Hegarty, Toni Pulu Hamish Stewart, Bayley Kuenzle, Manasa Mataele, Chase Tiatia.

Reserves: Tom Horton, Angus Wagner, Siosifa Amone, Ryan McCauley, Jackson Pugh, Issak Fines, Nikilao Foliaki,
George Poolman.

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Pasifika (1-15): Abraham Pole, Samiuela Moli, Sueten Asomua, Alex McRobbie, Mike McKee, Miracle Faiilagi, Solomone Funaki, Lotu Inisi, Ereatara Enari, Lincoln McClutchie, Anzelo Tuitavuki, Danny Toala, Fine Inisi, Timoci Tavatavanawai, William Havili.

Reserves: Luteru Tolai, Ezekiel Lindenmuth, Isi Tu’ungafasi, Potu Leavasa, Jonah Mau’u, Manu Paea, Henry Taefu, Levi Aumua.

Referee: Jordan Way

Key facts: The Force have won their past two SRP games against non-Australian sides – the only time they’ve done better than that was a five game winning streak in 2013 to 2014. Moana have never won in seven attempts away from home. They have scored four or more tries in their last four games.

The teams are equal first for possession rates this season – with 54 percent, although MP have enjoyed four more minutes with the ball than the Force. The Force have made 28 entries into the attacking 22 zone this season – a competition high – and four more than MP.

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