Preview: Brumbies v Force

Date published: July 15 2016

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The Brumbies will look to cement their spot in the play-offs by beating the Western Force in their Australian derby in Canberra on Saturday. 

The home side are currently in joint first place with the Waratahs at the top of the Australian Conference standings but have won more matches than the Sydneysiders (nine to eight), which means they simply have to beat the Force to reach the quarter-finals.

With this being the final round of the regular season and with the Force languishing at the bottom table, the Brumbies should win this encounter comfortably.

That is easier said than done though as they could have sewn up their play-off spot last weekend already, but a 40-15 loss against New Zealand's weakest team, the Blues, wrecked those plans.

Brumbies co-captain Christian Leali'ifano believes that result was a wake-up call and warned against being complacent against the Force.

"We spoke about it last week as well, that little bit of complacency or little bit of mistakes you make can really hurt you, whether that be on the field or in your preparation," he said.

"So we definitely feel like a second chance and have woken up again to prepare well and push forward now."

Although the Force's season has gone pear-shaped – they have won just two matches this season and parted ways with their head coach Michael Foley – they will still be motivated to do well as a victory could move them in to fourth place in the Australian Conference if the Reds suffer a defeat, and fail to secure a bonus-point, in their match against the Rebels in Brisbane on Friday.

The Brumbies have won eight and drawn one of their last 10 matches against the Force including a current winning streak of five games with the Force's last victory registered in 2013.

Stephen Larkham's charges have won their last six games against Australian opposition, a seventh straight win would represent their longest such streak in Super Rugby history.

The Force have lost their last three Super Rugby fixtures against Australian opposition, not since the opening round of the 2013 season have they lost more (four).

The men from Perth have averaged just 6.2 clean breaks per game this season, fewer than any other side, while only three teams have conceded more clean breaks than the Western Australia side (12.5).

The Force (83%) and the Brumbies (78%) are two of just five sides to maintain a kick success rate of over 75% this season; the Force sit top of the rankings and are the only side to average fewer than one miss per game (0.7).

The last time these teams met: The Brumbies maintained their unbeaten status thanks to a 31-14 victory in their Round Three clash in Perth. Stephen Moore and Matt Toomua scored early tries for the Brumbies but Luke Morahan struck back with a five-pointer before the break. The Brumbies increased their lead thanks to further tries from Joe Tomane and David Pocock and Christian Leali'ifano kicked four conversions and a penalty. Ben Tapuai scored a consolation try for the visitors whose other points came via conversions from Jono Lance and Peter Grant.

Players to watch: Brumbies co-captain Stephen Moore will do everything in his power to lead his team to victory and, in doing so, in to the play-offs. This is a momentous match for the Wallabies skipper as he will become the most capped Australian Super Rugby player, when he leads the side onto the field. This will be his 163rd appearance in the tournament. This includes 47 matches for the Reds and means he will break the record held Western Force legend Nathan Sharpe. The goalkicking of Christian Leali'ifano will also be vital if the Brumbies want to advance to the quarter-finals.

If the Force want to win, their fly-half, Jono Lance, will have to deliver his best performance of the season. Lance has spent most of the season on the sidelines after tearing his pectoral muscle in the corresponding fixture in Perth back in Round Three and will be expected to give his side much needed momentum against their hosts. The captaincy of Wallaby wing Luke Morahan will also be important if they want to secure victory.

Team news: The Brumbies coaching staff have made one change to their side. South African born Ruan Smith will replace Ben Alexander at tighthead prop which sees Alexander drop to the bench. Smith will earn his 50th Super Rugby cap after playing most of his professional career at the Force and the Brumbies. 

The Western Force have made one change to their matchday squad. The only change is in the back row where Brynard Stander comes in to replace the injured Angus Cottrell at blindside flanker. 

Form: The Brumbies went in to the break for the June internationals on a high after thrashing the Sunwolves in Canberra and continued with their fine form when the competition resumed, with another one-sided victory over the Reds at home in Round 15. They suffered a setback last weekend, however, when the Blues beat them convincingly in Auckland last weekend.

The Force can't buy a win at the moment with their last victory registered in Round 11 when they beat the Sunwolves in Tokyo. They had a bye in the next round but then suffered defeats to the Blues, Rebels, Cheetahs and Stormers.

Prediction: The Brumbies will have little trouble in taking the spoils in this derby and will cruise to victory. Brumbies to win by 18 points.

Previous results:

2016: Brumbies won 31-14 in Perth 
2015: Brumbies won 33-20 in Perth
2015: Brumbies won 27-15 in Canberra
2014: Brumbies won 47-25 in Canberra
2014: Brumbies won 27-14 in Perth
2013: Force won 21-15 in Perth
2013: Brumbies won 41-7 in Canberra
2012: Brumbies won 27-18 in Perth
2012: Brumbies won 19-17 in Canberra

The teams:

Brumbies: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Nigel Ah Wong, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 James Dargaville, 10 Christian Lealiifano (cc), 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Ruan Smith, 2 Stephen Moore (cc), 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Allan Alaalatoa, 18 Ben Alexander, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Blake Enever, 21 Joe Powell, 22 Andrew Smith, 23 Lausii Taliauli

Force: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Marcel Brache, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Luke Morahan (c), 10 Jono Lance, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Richard Hardwick, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Brynard Stander, 5 Rory Walton, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Guy Millar, 2 Harry Scoble, 1 Pek Cowan 
Replacements: 16 Anaru Rangi, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Jermaine Ainsley, 19 Matt Philip, 20 Kane Koteka, 21 Ryan Louwrens, 22 Peter Grant, 23 Semisi Masirewa

Date: Saturday, July 16
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
Kick-off: 19:40 local (09:40 GMT)
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Nic Berry (Australia), Ed Martin (Australia)
TMO: Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)

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