The Force will look to recover from back-to-back defeats when they travel to Canberra to face the Brumbies this Friday.
Both these Australian side battled the elements last weekend, as the Brumbies ground out a tough win in the wet against the Rebels, while the Force were just blown away by the Hurricanes (see what we did there).
Expectations rose after the season opening win over the Waratahs for the Force, especially after last year’s surprising campaign that had them pushing right to the very end to make the playoff spots.
But last week’s defeat at home to the Hurricanes was a shocker. The hosts were completely outplayed and their defence was woeful, having no answers to the Hurricanes’ power and pace. Julian Savea practically toying with Luke Morahan when he scored yet another try summed up the contest.
Force coach Michael Foley admitted the side miss the influence of back-rower Matt Hodgson but conceded that wasn’t a good enough excuse for his side’s lacklustre defensive effort – missing an eye-opening 30 tackles.
Those kind of cracks will get the Brumbies excited with their near all-Wallaby backline, even though their performance against the Rebels became more unconvincing as the match wore on.
The Rebels were physical in a style reminiscent of the Force at their best last season, signalling the way for the visitors this Friday if they are to stop Nic White and Matt Toomua from running the show.
After defeat to the Chiefs and last week’s middling performance in that tough weather, the Brumbies will have targeted Friday’s contest as a chance to get motoring again – even though they sit four points clear at the top of the Australian Conference anyhow.
Brumbies head coach Stephen Larkham: "We managed to get on top of the Force here last year to progress to the finals and we’ll be looking to get into that sort of rhythm here again on Friday night.”
Force scrum-half Alby Mathewson: "We pride ourselves in our defence which basically has been our trademark. It's about not over-complicating things, just going back to what we know. When we defend well we attack well, so it's just making sure we shore that up. Defence is an attitude and we have to make sure that when we are under pressure we stay relaxed.
Last time out: The Brumbies racked up close to 50 points in this July meeting last year as they closed in on their playoff spot. Matt Toomua was massive for the home side, scoring a hat-trick of tries from fly-half, as the Brumbies finished with a total of six scores in a 47-25 triumph. The Force did score three tries of their own but the result was never in doubt.
Players to Watch:
Team news: Yet to score this season for the Brumbies, Wallabies winger Henry Speight is a constant threat and will be hungry to break his duck this Friday against the Force. Such a powerful but pacy winger, the afro may be gone but Speight remains a crowd favourite and should prove to be a real threat on home turf.
As for the visitors, Zack Holmes has been talked up this week by the Brumbies as a potential threat given his inside knowledge on their systems having been with the side before joining the Force last year. The 24-year-old gets the nod ahead of Sias Ebersohn in Canberra and it'll be interesting to see if he can use what information he has of the Brumbies to any effect.
Form: The Brumbies sit top of the Australian Conference on ten points after scoring a try bonus point in the opening win of the season against the Reds, a 47-3 thrashing, before a losing bonus point against the Chiefs before the win over the Force. Meanwhile the Force shipped 40 points themselves last week after going to Suncorp and losing to the Reds in Round 2. They started the season with a bonus-point win over the champions the Waratahs in Sydney.
Predictions: After their lacklustre defensive showing last week and with the Brumbies back at home and having a small point to prove, it's tough to see the Force getting the win on the road. Brumbies by 9.
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 28-17 in Perth
2012: Brumbies won 19-17 in Canberra
2011: 13-13 draw in Perth
2011: Force won 29-17 in Canberra
Brumbies: 15 Robbie Coleman, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Leali'ifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ita Vaea, 7 Jarred Butler, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 JP Smith, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Jordan Smiler, 20 Blake Enever, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 James Dargaville, 23 Jesse Mogg.
Force: 15 Luke Morahan, 14 Marcel Brache, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Solomoni Jnr Rasolea, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Brynard Stander, 5 Steve Mafi, 4 Sam Wykes (c), 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pekahou Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Oliver Hoskins, 19 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 20 Kane Koteka, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Sias Ebersohn, 23 Luke Burton.
Date: Friday, March 6
Venue: Canberra Stadium
Kick-off: 19.40 local (08.40 GMT, 21.40 NZST, 10.40 SAST)
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Andrew Lees (Australia)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)