The Brumbies will look to cement their place atop the Super Rugby standings when they host the Force in Saturday's all-Aussie derby.
The Brumbies will look to cement their place atop the Super Rugby standings when they host the Western Force in Saturday's all-Aussie derby at Canberra Stadium.
The tournament leaders are on 35 points – nineteen clear of the 13th-placed Force – and start this clash as favourites, though the men from the west have already caused an upset or two this season.
Indeed, another shock Force victory could see the Brumbies lose their pole position and fall behind the Reds if they get the better of the Blues on Saturday.
It's for this reason that Jake White's troops will be extremely wary of a Force side that, besides only winning two games so far this year, have been competitive in most rounds.
They have beaten the Crusaders as well as the Reds and ran the Hurricanes close last week, so White and co. would have certainly done their homework on them.
“They are very enthusiastic and have a very enthusiastic forward pack who run the ball really well,” said Brumbies assistant coach Stephen Larkham.
“They have dangerous players like Sam Norton-Knight who is adding a new dimension to their attack.
“Also Alfie Mafi and Jayden Haywood are very dangerous, so they have quite a dangerous back three.
“They are quite unpredictable in what they throw at you, so defence will be a big area for us to focus on this week.”
Defence was the hallmark of this Brumbies performance in last Saturday's pulsating draw against the Reds at Suncorp Stadium, so Larkham shouldn't have too many sleepless nights.
In team news, the Brumbies have made just one change and bring in prop Scott Sio, while the Force have been bolstered by the return of Kyle Godwin, Salesi Ma'afu and Ben McCalman.
Prediction: The Force have nothing to lose and will throw everything at the competition leaders. But the Brumbies showed last week they can withstand anything… Brumbies by 8!
Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (c), 7 George Smith, 6 Fotu Auelua, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Peter Kimlin, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Ruaidhri Murphy, 18 Leon Power, 19 Colby Faingaa, 20 Ian Prior, 21 Pat McCabe, 22 Robbie Coleman.
Western Force: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Patrick Dellit, 13 Junior Rasolea, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Ed Stubbs, 10 Sam Norton-Knight, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Richard Brown, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Ben McCalman, 5 Sam Wykes, 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Heath Tessmann, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 James Hilterbrand, 17 Kieran Longbottom, 18 Rory Walton, 19 Chris Alcock, 20 Mick Snowden, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Winston Stanley.
Date: Saturday, April 27
Venue: Canberra Stadium
Kick-off: 19:40 (09:40 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Andrew Lees (Australia), Matt O'Brien (Australia)
Television match official: Matt Goddard (Australia)