Brumbies face anxious wait over Western Force clash following COVID-19 lockdown in Perth
With little more than two weeks until the beginning of the new Super Rugby AU campaign, the timing of Perth’s five-day COVID-19 lockdown couldn’t have been much worse.
Granted the strict lockdown didn’t come during the season, but it has jeopardised Saturday’s pre-season clash between the Brumbies and Western Force.
The two sides are scheduled to do battle in a trial match at Viking Park in Canberra this weekend, but whether that match goes ahead at all remains to be seen, especially if the Force aren’t able to leave the Western Australian capital this week.
Should the match be cancelled, it will be a source of frustration for James Tucker, the injury-plagued New Zealand lock who has joined the Brumbies this season as he looks to overcome his injury woes.
Having not played for over a year due to an ACL injury that curtailed his Super Rugby and Mitre 10 Cup campaigns for the Blues and Waikato last year, Tucker was eager to take to the field this week prior to Perth’s sudden lockdown announcement.
“Obviously this is pretty niggly that this has come up today, five days out from the game – especially after last year as well where everything was up in the air the whole time,” he said on Monday.
“But, we can only prepare how we can and hopefully the game goes through.”
That was a rhetoric reiterated by prop James Slipper, who was one of many Wallabies to return to the Brumbies set-up recently as the squad continue to prepare for their Super Rugby AU title defence over the coming weeks.
“Fingers crossed it goes to plan. A fair bit of water has to go under the bridge, but for us, we’ve just been concentrating on making sure we can play some good rugby this week and that most of the boys get a run. That’s probably most important,” Slipper said.
As part of the Brumbies and Wallabies sides that endured a season of uncertainty in 2020, Slipper ensured he and his teammates were well-equipped to deal with changes in scheduling at short notice, regardless of how testing those changes might be.
“I wouldn’t say it fazes the group. Last year was a good test of character and we just had to adapt and it wasn’t just in rugby, it was in all sports across Australia and across the world.
“[It’s] nothing that we’re new to this year, so I’m sure it won’t be the last thing that happens this year either. We’ve just got to make sure we’re ready to go.”
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Should the match go ahead, it wouldn’t surprise to see the Brumbies roll out a squad with a blend of experience and youth, especially what Slipper had to say about pre-season training thus far.
“It’s been physical. A lot of the young blokes have been really impressing and asserting themselves on the old blokes, which is always going to happen, but in terms of the upcoming season, the boys are really excited about it,” he said.
“We obviously won it last year and then we got the Trans-Tasman this year as well, so there’s a lot to be excited about for a rugby fan, and for us, we’re chomping at the bit to start the season.”
On the flip side of that, Tucker – five years Slipper’s junior – noted the impetus the returning Wallabies contingent have brought to the squad upon their arrival at Brumbies headquarters.
“It’s good to learn from them and take what they’ve learned in their camps and what they bring back to us,” Tucker said.
“It’s good to get the knowledge from them, really, and that intensity they bring to training is something that we needed, especially coming off nine weeks of pre-season. We’re all a bit tired and they just up the level, which is good for us.”
Irrespective if this weekend’s match goes ahead, the Brumbies and Force are still planned to face each other in their respective season-openers at HBF Park in Perth on February 19.
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