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Brumbies boosted by the return of Wallaby Slipper for semi-final

By AAP
James Slipper of the Brumbies warms up ahead of the round four Super Rugby Pacific match between Highlanders and ACT Brumbies at Forsyth Barr Stadium, on March 16, 2024, in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Wallabies prop James Slipper makes a welcome return as the ACT Brumbies forward pack braces for one of the most powerful scrums in the Super Rugby Pacific.

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The veteran has been named by coach Stephen Larkham for his side’s semi-final clash with the Blues on Friday after overcoming a calf injury that ruled him out of their dominant 32-16 victory over the Highlanders last time out.

The Brumbies were out-muscled by the Aucklanders in a 46-7 humbling at Eden Park earlier this season, extending their winless run at the venue to 11 years.

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Larkham said his men had learned their lessons from that day and were on a roll, banking seven straight wins.

“The majority of their game comes through their forwards. They’ve got the biggest forward pack in the competition, or one of the biggest at least,” he said.

“They’re pretty dominant with their scrum and their maul and their ball-carriers. We want to make sure that we give our guys an opportunity to empty their tanks and we’ve got other guys coming on at the back end of the game to bring a bit of energy.

“We’ve been building all year to try and get our best performances in the finals and we’re looking to take it a step further compared to last week where a few things hurt us and we let ourselves down. We want to make sure that we’re a bit more clinical in all aspects of our game.”

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With the experienced Slipper bolstering a fit-and-firing Brumbies forward pack, Larkham is confident they can avoid falling at the same stage for the third year running and book a first grand-final berth since 2013.

“We’re obviously happy that he’s out there. He’s one of our most experienced players and you need experienced players in finals footy,” he said.

“He certainly gives confidence to the other front-rowers and understands the pressures that come in the scrum. He has that ability to fix those challenges on the run which is what we’re going to have to do this weekend.”

The Blues are in fine form heading into the clash but have lost influential captain Patrick Tuipulotu to a knee injury.

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“(He) is pretty integral to their scrum, so we’d like to think that we’re going to have at least parity on the weekend,” Larkham said.

Flanker Rory Scott comes back into the starting line-up in place of Jahrome Brown, who drops down to the bench after marking his 50th Brumbies appearance in the quarter-final.

“He’s a warrior. He’s one of our best ball-carriers, he’s one of our best tacklers, he creates a lot of chaos around the breakdown,” Larkham said of Scott.

“He’s one of those players that the other players love playing with.”

Brumbies semi-final team to play Blues:

1. Harry Vella (Canberra Royals)
2. Billy Pollard (Uni-Norths Owls)
3. Allan Alaalatoa (C) (Uni-Norths Owls)
4. Darcy Swain (Tuggeranong Vikings)
5. Tom Hooper (Tuggeranong Vikings)
6. Rob Valetini (Western Districts)
7. Jahrome Brown (Gungahlin Eagles)
8. Charlie Cale (Uni-North Owls)
9. Ryan Lonergan (Tuggeranong Vikings)
10. Noah Lolesio (Tuggeranong Vikings)
11. Corey Toole (Gungahlin Eagles)
12. Tamati Tua (Queanbeyan Whites)
13. Len Ikitau (Tuggeranong Vikings)
14. Andy Muirhead (Canberra Royals)
15. Tom Wright (Western Districts)

Reserves

16. Liam Bowron (Canberra Royals)
17. Rhys van Nek (Uni-Norths Owls)
18. Sosefo Kautai (Canberra Royals)
19. Nick Frost (Queanbeyan Whites)
20. Luke Reimer (Western Districts)
21. Harrison Goddard (Queanbeyan Whites)
22. Jack Debreczeni (Uni-Norths Owls)
23. Ollie Sapsford (Uni-Norths Owls)

Head Coach

Stephen Larkham

In this episode of Walk the Talk, Jim Hamilton chats with double World Cup winner Damian de Allende about all things Springbok rugby, including RWC2023 and the upcoming Ireland series. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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