Australia will entertain two Super Rugby matches in Round Ten, with the defending champion Chiefs kicking off proceedings with a visit to Sydney to play the Waratahs. The following evening arguably the match to decide the conference takes place in Brisbane, with the Reds hosting the Brumbies.
Waratahs: Israel Folau; Cam Crawford, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Rob Horne, Drew Mitchell; Bernard Foley, Brendan McKibbin; Benn Robinson, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Sekope Kepu; Sitaleki Timani, Kane Douglas; Dave Dennis (captain), Michael Hooper, Wycliff Palu. Replacements: John Ulugia, Paddy Ryan, Mitchell Chapman, Will Skelton, Pat McCutcheon, Matt Lucas, Ben Volavola, Peter Betham (one to be admitted).
Chiefs: Andrew Horrell; Lelia Masaga, Charlie Ngatai, Richard Kahui, Asaeli Tikoirotuma; Aaron Cruden, Brendon Leonard; Fritz Lee, Sam Cane, Liam Messam; Brodie Retallick, Michael Fitzgerald, Ben Tameifuna, Hika Elliot, Pauliasi Manu. Replacements: Rhys Marshall, Michael Kainga, Nick Crosswell, Tanerau Latimer, Augustine Pulu, Gareth Anscombe, Tim Nanai-Williams.
Waratahs enforcers Tatafu Polota-Nau and Wycliff Palu both return to the starting line-up after overcoming hamstring and ankle injuries respectively, while the Chiefs have made six changes after Saturday's shock loss to the Reds.
Lelia Masaga returns from a back injury on the right wing replacing Tim Nanai-Williams. Inside-centre Bundee Aki is suspended, forcing Richard Kahui to shift one position closer to the action at number 12 while Charlie Ngatai gets a start at outside centre.
The Waratahs finished on the wrong end of a 41-29 loss to the Hurricanes in Wellington a fortnight ago. Their fourth loss in seven games this season snapped a two-match winning run after narrow home victories over the Force and Blues. NSW have shown signs of turning the corner under new coach Michael Cheika, however lapses in concentration and basic skill errors at crucial times continue to hold them back. The Waratahs are running third on the Australia Conference ladder, 12 points back from the Brumbies and 10th overall.
The Chiefs conceded four tries to two against the Reds to suffer just their second defeat of the season and first loss at home in Hamilton. It wasn't that they played terribly in the defeat, they were just slightly off and the Reds were excellent. Despite the loss they still remain on top of the New Zealand conference and second overall behind the Brumbies.
Reds: Jono Lance; Rod Davies, Anthony Faingaa, Ben Tapuai, Digby Ioane; Quade Cooper, Will Genia; Jake Schatz, Liam Gill, Eddie Quirk; James Horwill (captain), Rob Simmons; James Slipper, James Hanson, Greg Holmes. Replacements: Saia Faingaa, Ben Daley, Ed O'Donoghue, Jarrad Butler, Ben Lucas, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Dom Shipperley.
Brumbies: Jesse Mogg; Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, Joe Tomane; Matt Toomua, Nic White; Fotu Auelea, George Smith, Ben Mowen (captain); Sam Carter, Peter Kimlin; Dan Palmer, Stephen Moore, Ben Alexander. Replacements: Siliva Siliva, Scott Sio, Jordan Smiler, Colby Faingaa, Ian Prior, Pat McCabe, Clyde Rathbone.
Reds winger Digby Ioane will make his return from injury in Saturday’s crucial Rod Macqueen Cup encounter against the ACT Brumbies at Suncorp Stadium. Ioane is the sole change to the Reds starting line-up which defeated the reigning Super Rugby champion Chiefs 31-23 at the weekend with the Wallabies dynamo now recovered from a knee complaint which forced him to miss Queensland’s two most recent wins.
Flyer Rod Davies has been rewarded for his standout two try effort against the Chiefs with selection on the opposite wing while 2012 Wallaby debutant Dom Shipperley will be injected into the match from the bench.
The return of Ioane strengthens the Reds line-up as they look to retain the Rod Macqueen Cup they gained possession of last year for the first time since its inception in 2005. The Cup is symbolic of the traditional rivalry between the Reds and Brumbies and is up for grabs annually as part of a two-game series during the Super Rugby regular season.
Meanwhile the Brumbies have made two changes to their starting side which will face the Reds at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night. In the forwards, Fotu Auelua will start at No. 8 moving Ben Mowen to blindside flanker and Jordan Smiler back to the bench.
The backs will also enjoy minimal disruption, with Andrew Smith the only casualty of last week’s match at Dunedin after he pulled his hamstring in the first 10 minutes. Smith has been replaced by Tevita Kuridrani at outside centre, with Clyde Rathbone filling the final spot on the bench.
The Reds present the University of Canberra Brumbies with their biggest challenge of the 2013 Super Rugby season. Brimming with talent, the Reds will carry 279 Test caps onto Suncorp Stadium, with experience spread throughout their forwards, backs and bench. Adding to the Reds quality are 15 players returning from their 2011 title winning squad, which will be eager to keep the Rod Macqueen Cup in Brisbane for another year.
Saturday’s contest will also determine which side will lead both the Super Rugby competition and Australian Conference heading into the second half of the tournament with the Reds (31 competition points) only marginally behind the table-topping Brumbies (33).