Blunting the NSW Waratahs’ beefed-up back row is Brumbies captain Allan Alaalatoa’s primary focus as the Super Rugby AU defending champions get comfortable in Canberra.
The Brumbies will play their next four games at home, beginning with Saturday’s second-round clash against the depleted Waratahs.
A 41-7 loss to the Queensland Reds last Friday was compounded by serious ankle injuries to captain Jake Gordon and centre Joey Walton, while fellow centre Izaia Perese was suspended for a dangerous tackle.
But in a huge boost for Rob Penney’s young side the Waratahs will welcome Wallabies enforcer Lachie Swinton back from his own suspension.
Swinton will join a new-look back-row alongside his Australia teammate Jack Dempsey and Junior Wallabies graduate Carlo Tizzano, who was among the best of a losing side at Suncorp Stadium.
A fit again Tepai Moeroa returns straight into the starting side at inside centre – replacing Walton – while newly named captain Alex Newsome moves in from the wing to play outside centre.
The Brumbies are wary of the wounded Waratahs.
“Physicality is going to be a big point of the game. They’re bringing Lachie Swinton back in and Tepai in the centres,” Alaalatoa said
“They’re two of their dominant ball carriers so we need to be physical up front and the backline needs to be on like they were last week (in a 27-11 defeat of the Western Force).
“Just thinking of it from their perspective, they’d be disappointed and looking to rectify (the defeat to the Reds) by doing a job on us, so we need to make sure our intent from the start of the game is on.”
Thanks to a midweek fixture change, the Brumbies will play the next three weeks with no COVID-19 crowd limits at GIO Stadium before a bye and then another game at home.
Dominant at home last season they will begin relatively unscathed, with hooker Folau Fainga’a (toe) replaced by Connal McInerney in the only change to the starting side.
“That’s the goal (four wins at home) in the short term, but you’ve got to look at tomorrow first,” Alaalatoa said.
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