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Super Rugby: Brumbies v Western Force Preview
The Brumbies will be looking to bounce back from their last-minute defeat to the Sharks when they host the Force this Friday.
Rugby can be such a cruel mistress at times. While the whole of Natal was left celebrating last week’s win, the greater part of Canberra was left weeping into their beers wondering just how their team let the Sharks pick-pocket them. Force fans had a much better week as their team snapped a 10-match home losing streak by beating the Reds.
So will the Brumbies bounce back from their last-minute loss or will the Force strike again?
Brumbies v Force | Friday 10 March | GIO Stadium | 10:40
To Win (80 Mins)
Brumbies 2/7 | Draw 25/1 | Force 5/2
Brumbies (-7.5) 9/10 | Force (+7.5) 9/10
Canberra’s finest weren’t the only ones who were left feeling robbed last week. Having sung their praise after a spirited Round 1 showing against the Crusaders, I decided to put my money where my mouth is and have a large strike on Steve Larkham’s men.
What followed was one of the worst examples of game management I have ever seen with the Brumbies – taking a page out of the Springbok playbook – kicking more ball away in the space of 40-minutes than most grizzled centre backs do in an entire Premier League season.
I expect Larkham will have laid into his backs, particularly his halfback pairing, after last week’s spectacle. With Larkham’s words likely to still be ringing in his charges ears, we can expect the Brumbies to keep more ball in hand this week.
In terms of team news, Steve Larkham has opted to omit Wallaby flanker Scott Fardy from his matchday 23, with youngster Ben Hyne taking the veteran's place on the side of the scrum. There's also a switch in the front row for the hosts with veteran prop Ben Alexander coming in at tighthead.
While the Brumbies were beaten by a late show from the Sharks, the Force put on some dramatic theatre themselves coming back from 19-12 down to run out 26-19 victors against the Reds. The result would have done the Force a world of good as they really need to make a strong statement to SANZAR if they are to play Super Rugby in 2018.
What has impressed me most about the Force during the opening two weeks has been their dedication on defence. The men from Western Australia have hit everything that has run at them. They really do look like a band of brothers scraping for their lively hoods.
There are still glaring issues for coach Dave Wessels to rectify, however. His backline is still struggling to create opportunities, although, the debut performance from winger Chance Peni was extremely encouraging. The former NRL man looks to have a bit about him and if he and Dane Haylett-Petty can develop a solid understanding, in relatively quick time, then the Force may just be able to conjure up more try scoring opportunities.
While Larkham has opted to make just the two changes to his run-on side, Force coach Dave Wessels has made sweeping changes across his team. Tetera Faulkner and Pek Cowan come into the front row, while Ross Haylett-Petty reverts back to the locking berth with Richard Hardwick coming into the number eight role to fill the void left in the loose trio.
Verdict: Brumbies 2/7
There’s a lot on the line for both of these teams as SANZAAR officials will meet this Friday to discuss a Super Rugby rejig, which will likely see an Australian team drop out of the tournament alongside one of the South African sides. While the Force are favourites to be banished from the competition, the Brumbies are said to be the other Australian side SANZAAR are looking to cut due to their poor financial record.
As such, this game could ultimately decide the fates of these franchises, which means this could be a rather cagey affair. Definitely a game I'd avoid but if you must have a strike, I'd recommend backing the the Brumbies on the straight win.