Planet Rugby

Preview: Brumbies v Chiefs

24th April 2014 08:26

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Last season's finalists meet for the first time since their 2013 showdown on Friday as the Brumbies host the Chiefs in Canberra.

Jake White is long gone but the Brumbies remain the best team in Australia, just.

After eight matches they have won six and top the Australian Conference, their biggest scalp so far proving to be the success over the Waratahs back in March.

The bye week has come at a crucial time for the Brumbies given they can now welcome back Christian Lealiifano and Sam Carter from injury.

Lealiifano's combination with Matt Toomua was a key part of their path to last year's final and the Wallaby brings an excellent kicking game to the table, both off the tee and from hand.

Bringing back in Lealiifano also recreates his centre pairing from last season with Tevita Kuridrani, which was so successful that both players went on to be capped by Australia.

One area where the Brumbies are not quite clicking this season is in attack with their metres made - only 2862 so far, which is just better than the Stormers and Force. Only the Lions have beaten fewer defenders.

That's an area of concern which the Brumbies will hope Lealiifano helps to fix. They have enough threats out wide, with Robbie Coleman and Jesse Mogg being two of the highest try scorers in the competition this year with 11 combined.

Their defence has also let them down, with the Brumbies possessing the worst tackling success percentage of all the teams on 84.6.

The Brumbies' lineout however is the best in the business at 93.8 percent and this will play a huge role, considering the Chiefs is the worst on 74 percent.

Dave Rennie's team have kept winning despite not playing anywhere near their best all season long.

The hope will be that last week's loss to the Crusaders gives them the necessary shot in the arm, but the absence of Aaron Cruden is telling.

Cruden is far more than just a points scorer for this side - he's also a key leadership figure who along with Mils Muliaina is being forced to watch on from the sidelines.

Gareth Anscombe has had an interesting week off the field with lots of chatter about whether he will represent Wales, but shouldn't let that get to his head.

The added experience of Ross Filipo in the second row and Mahonri Schwalger in the front row seem to solidify the Chiefs' pack, as Liam Messam switches to number eight.

In what will be an unforgiving atmosphere the Chiefs back row have to front up, and that puts a good load of pressure on Sam Cane.

If you take out the freakishly good statistics for the Hurricanes then the Chiefs' attack is the best around, but it's their temperament in closing out the tight games that's now under the microscope.

The fight they showed in coming back to draw with the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein should provide inspiration, but despite that moment of magic the Chiefs just haven't felt like the Chiefs yet this season. Eventually they have to click into place.

Form: After a three-game winning start to the season, the Chiefs have only won one of their last five matches, drawing twice. The Brumbies on the other hand shook off an opening loss to win six of their last seven matches, coming into the fixture fresh off a bye week.

Previous results:

2013: Chiefs 27-22 in Hamilton
2012: Chiefs 29-22 in Hamilton
2011: Brumbies won 28-20 in Canberra
2010: Brumbies won 30-23 in Canberra

Prediction: The scorned Chiefs or in-form Brumbies? The head favours the home side here. Brumbies by five.

Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Joe Tomane, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Robbie Coleman, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8Ben Mowen (c), 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Jordan Smiler, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 JP Smith, 19 Jack Whetton, 20 Tom McVerry, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Andrew Smith, 23 Pat McCabe.

Chiefs: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Andrew Horrell, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Liam Messam (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Nick Crosswell, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Ross Filipo, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Pauliasi Manu
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Jamie Mackintosh, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Matt Symons, 20 Tevita Koloamatangi, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Dwayne Sweeney, 23 James Lowe.

Date: Friday, April 25
Venue: Canberra Stadium
Kickoff: 17:40 (local, 07:40 GMT)
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia), Andrew Lees (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

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