With just three weeks to go until kick-off Aussie teams are playing pre-season trials to get squads up to speed.


The ACT Brumbies have hit the ground running under new coach Stephen Larkham, grinding out a 31-26 against the NSW Waratahs in Griffith.

His first game in charge since taking the reins from Wallabies-bound Dan McKellar, Larkham's Brumbies scored three second-half tries to seal the campaign-opening win.

With heavily-rotated squads from both sides meaning the contest will offer practically no formline for their Super Rugby Pacific round one clash on February 24, each team will have been impressed with strong displays from some off-season additions.

Australian Rugby Sevens talent Corey Toole turned in the most eye-catching display, the winger scoring an impressive first-half try and adding another in the second with flashy footwork making him one of the Brumbies' better creative options throughout the game.

But NSW would have been thrilled with the return of former Wallaby star Tolu Latu from French side Stade Francais.

The hooker came off the bench in the second half and hit the scoreboard quickly, showing what he might add to the Tahs' pack this season.

As if proving they'd lost nothing from McKellar's departure, the Brumbies powered over from his trademarked rolling maul to open their account, while Toole's brilliant hand to a Declan Meredith grubber got them in front early.

The Waratahs scored either side of that double through Harry Wilson and Te Tera Faulkner, but two quick Brumbies' tries to start the second half gave them some breathing room.

Young NSW fullback Ben Dowling scored a great try late in proceedings courtesy of a brilliant ball from Jack Bowen.

Off-season ACT signing Jack Debreczeni impressed in the halves with Ryan Longergan, the five-eighth making his case to lock down a spot in the Brumbies' 23 for the coming season with stylish play-making in the second half.

The Tahs also got back flanker Lachie Swinton for his first run in a year, having missed considerable time dealing with nerve damage to his shoulder.

New Wallabies boss Eddie Jones was in attendance, although he had to wait until the second half to see a number of his national team troops in action.

Both sides started without most of their regular players, Charlie Gamble, Ben Donaldson and Tane Edmed among the starters for the Waratahs while Ed Kennedy and Rory Scott were familiar faces for the Brumbies.

They each emptied the bench in the second half, the Brumbies unleashing Wallabies talent including Lachie Lonergan and Darcy Swain.

Western Force coach Simon Cron admits there's plenty to fix in his new-look Super Rugby Pacific side after they suffered a pummelling from the Queensland Reds.

The Force went into Saturday's trial in Perth with high hopes, only to see them dashed 45-10 by the Reds.

Cron was quick to identify areas that need to be fixed before his side's next trial against Fijian Drua on February 16.

"We didn't get past one or two phases. We'd get stripped, drop it, or try to throw a miracle pass," Cron said.

"As a team we've got to learn what it looks like to build pressure.

"To build pressure you've got to make them tackle you and to make them tackle you, you've got to hold the ball.

"We had a tendency to not look after the ball and throw it away. Patience is critical and we lacked that.

"We go back and look at the critical few things. Why we didn't build pressure through phase play and why we were slow in our transition defence."

Reds coach Brad Thorn was happy with the result, having seen his side outscore the Force six tries to two.

But he wasn't getting carried away. 

"We got a hit out," a circumspect Thorn said.

"You don't get too excited around trial games. It's a trial game. Guys are coming off and on.

"We're working on our game."

Thorn did throw out a veiled crack at the Waratahs ahead of their pre-season clash on Saturday.

"They are the team everyone's talking about in Australian rugby," he said.

"They've got a lot of, I guess, strength.

"They've brought new players in. They are going to be a good challenge for us."

Meanwhile, Reds captain Fraser McReight backed No.8 Harry Wilson for a return to the Wallabies under new coach Eddie Jones after a strong performance and two tries in oppressive heat at the UWA Sports Ground.

Wilson was dropped by former Wallabies coach Dave Rennie for the European tour at the end of last year, but McReight said: "He's just ready to put his hand up.

"He's had a really good pre-season trying to work his way back into the fold.

"He knows the best way to do that is by playing his part out here.

"You saw the carry he does. He's got the heart of a lion. Pretty glad he's in our side."