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Gidday! It’s on. Like an old friend sending you an out of the blue text message, it certainly feels like the 2019 Super Rugby season has crept up on us.
Be it a summer-wide focus on a new look, rebuilding national cricket setup, or the myriad of off-field issues plaguing Rugby Union’s brother code and dominating subsequent headlines – it feels like the promotion and interest around the kick off of season 2019 has been markedly lower than previous iterations of the world’s finest provincial rugby tournament.
Maybe this is a good thing. Australian Rugby has had its share of issues in the last handful of years. If we believe that regression (or in this instance, progression) towards the standard level is a legitimate concept – perhaps now begins the slow rise of the Australian Super Rugby franchises.
Maybe we will see the return of the mighty Canberra Brumbies to the world beating days of the early 2000s! Maybe we will see Bernard Foley sink another 80th minute penalty goal to win another fairytale title! Or maybe the 2011 Queensland Reds will start throwing the ball around in their own dead ball area, just… because?
One can only dream…
Redemption stories are often built from periods spent away from the all-seeing public eye. The emphasis now lies firmly with the players to remind the Australian fans why we love every single little bit about this game.
That journey begins tonight with a bumper clash between the Rebels, and the Brumbies. Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match, starting from 7:45pm AEDT.
Put simply, tonight’s match-up is a textbook, open dictionary to page three example of backs vs forwards dictating proceedings.
In the Brumbies lies perhaps the best set piece in the entire competition. Their scrum is stronger than the rock of Gibraltar, or any stone that King Arthur tried to pull out of a stone. They have a rolling maul to boot, too.
David Pocock, Sam Carter and Rob Valentini are legitimate lineout generals, and an Adam Coleman-less Rebels unit will find it extremely difficult to win any ball come lineout and scrum time.
Rebels captain Dane Haylett-Petty spoke mid-week about how much of a “grind” this fixture would be for the visiting Melbourne franchise. In every sense of the word, I expect this to be the case.
The Rebels have an embarrassment of riches to call upon in numbers 9 through 15, and the reunion of Quade Cooper and Will Genia in the halves will have every 2011 Queensland Reds supporter reaching for their complementary premiership supporter woollies.
In essence, the winner of this game will come down to who nullifies the other’s strengths more consistently.
If the Rebels can find a way to win their ball on set piece, and kill the Brumbies rolling maul, then their attacking arsenal should be too strong for the home team.
However, if the Brumbies can dictate proceedings with their scrum and lineout – then Cooper, Genia, Maddocks and company will be doing a whole lot of ball watching, and not a whole lot of ball running.
Simple game, rugby union.
The Brumbies are odds on favourites with the bookies, and a lot of rugby pundits.
Their forward pack is A + elite, and they have a defensive resolve that should hold them in decent stead for a large majority of the 80 minutes.
However, the first few rounds of any competition throw up surprises. The Rebels to turn it on for 80 minutes and win.
Rebels by 8+
Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match, starting from 7:45pm AEST.
Where: GIO Stadium, Canberra
When: Friday 15th February – 7:45pm AEDT
Betting Odds: Brumbies $1.49, Rebels $2.64
1 James Slipper, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 4 Rory Arnold, 5 Sam Carter, 6 Rob Valetini, 7 David Pocock, 8 Lachlan McCaffrey, 9 Joe Powell, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Toni Pulu, 12 Irae Simone, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 14 Henry Speight, 15 Tom Banks.
Replacements: 16. Josh Mann-Rea, 17. Scott Sio, 18. Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, 19. Blake Enever, 20. Pete Samu, 21. Matt Lucas, 22. Wharenui Hawera, 23. Andy Muirhead.
1 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Anaru Rangi, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 4 Luke Jones, 5 Matt Philip, 6 Angus Cottrell, 7 Richard Hardwick, 8 Isi Naisarani, 9 Will Genia, 10 Quade Cooper, 11 Marika Koroibete, 12 Billy Meakes, 13 Tom English, 14 Jack Maddocks, 15 Dane Haylett-Petty.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Matt Gibbon, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Esei Ha’angana, 20 Brad Wilkin, 21 Rob Leota, 22 Michael Ruru, 23 Semisi Tupou.