We’re getting towards the pointy end of Super Rugby AU and there’s still everything to play for.
Round 6 will feature two monster match-ups with the reigning champion Brumbies hosting the Western Force in Canberra on Friday night before the oldest rivalry - Queensland v NSW - resumes on Saturday.
ACT BRUMBIES V WESTERN FORCE
The Ponies are back after a well-timed bye and have plenty to prove following their Round 4 loss to the Reds at home.
A fourth consecutive Super Rugby AU win over the Force is probably expected of Dan McKellar’s men and would be a welcome boost to their hopes of hosting another final.
That being said, the Force have continued to impress in 2021 with last week’s 26-19 loss to Queensland proving the men from out west are more than capable of rocking the boat.
The Brumbies’ front row stocks have been bolstered by the return of James Slipper but it’s not such good news for the Force with veteran duo Richard Kahui and Rob Kearney cautiously left out of the matchday 23.
BRUMBIES (1-15): Harry Lloyd, Folau Fainga'a, James Slipper, Darcy Swain, Cadeyrn Neville, Rob Valetini, Jahrome Brown, Pete Samu, Nic White (c), Noah Lolesio, Mack Hansen, Irae Simone, Len Ikitau, Andy Muirhead, Tom Banks
Reserves: Lachlan Lonergan, Fred Kauhea, Sefo Kautai, James Tucker, Rory Scott, Ryan Lonergan, Reesjan Pasitoa, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa
INs: James Slipper, Fred Kauhea, Sefo Kautai, James Tucker, Rory Scott
OUTs: Scott Sio, Tom Ross, Tom Cusack, Nick Frost, Archer Holz
WESTERN FORCE (1-15): Tom Robertson, Feleti Kaitu'u, Greg Holmes, Jeremy Thrush, Sitaleki Timani, Fergus Lee Warner, Kane Koteka, Brynard Stander (c), Tomas Cubelli, Jake McIntrye, Marcel Brache, Henry Taefu, Tevita Kuridrani, Byron Ralston, Jack McGregor
Reserves: Jack Winchester, Angus Wagner, Santiago Medrano, Ryan McCauley, Tim Anstee, Ian Prior, Jono Lance, Jordan Olowofela
INs: Jordan Olowofela, Jono Lance
OUTs: Richard Kahui, Rob Kearney
NSW WARATAHS V QUEENSLAND REDS
Meanwhile, Saturday’s clash will see the Reds enter ‘Tah Land as hot favourites to pile more misery on the New South Welshmen.
Brad Thorn’s side is 4-0 in 2021, including their Round 1 thumping of the Waratahs in Brisbane, and will be eager to break their Sydney hoodoo against the old foe.
The Reds are in such fine fettle that in-form utility Seru Uru has been named at number 8 to accommodate lock Ryan Smith, shifting Test backrower Harry Wilson to the pine.
It couldn’t be a more different story from the sky blue camp with the ‘Tahs 0-4 and battling multiple injuries.
Wallaby duo Jack Dempsey and Lachie Swinton have been ruled out of Saturday’s clash, leaving NSW coach Rob Penney short-handed in the pack, though the return of fiery centre Izaia Perese is a welcome boost.
NSW WARATAHS (1-15): Harry Johnson-Holmes, David Porecki, Tetara Faulkner, Sam Wykes, Sam Caird, Hugh Sinclair, Carlo Tizzano, Will Harris, Jack Grant, Will Harrison, James Ramm, Izaia Perese, Lalakai Foketi, Alex Newsome (c), Jack Maddocks
Reserves: Tom Horton, Angus Bell, Darcy Breen, Jeremy Williams, Max Douglas, Henry Robertson, Tane Edmed, Mark Nawaqanitawase
INs: Izaia Perese, Angus Bell, Max Douglas
OUTs: Lachie Swinton, Jack Dempsey, Tepai Moeroa
QUEENSLAND REDS (1-15): Dane Zander, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Taniela Tupou, Ryan Smith, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Angus Scott-Young, Fraser McReight, Seru Uru, Tate McDermott, James O'Connor (c), Filipo Daugunu, Hunter Paisami, Jordan Petaia, Suliasi Vunivalu, Jock Campbell
Reserves: Alex Mafi, Richie Asiata, Zane Nonggorr, Harry Wilson, Sam Wallis, Kalani Thomas, Hamish Stewart, Bryce Hegarty
INs: Sam Wallis, Filipo Daugunu
OUTs: Angus Blyth, Ilaise Droasese