The 1-3 Brumbies are in deep trouble early in the Super Rugby season after losing Wallabies stars David Pocock and Allan Alaalatoa for Friday’s crucial derby against the Waratahs in Canberra.
And former Wallabies winger Curtis Rona is an unlucky casualty of NSW coach Daryl Gibson’s rotation policy as promising youngster Alex Newsome is instead let off the leash.
Keep checking in for all the latest round five team news.
Every game of the 2019 Vodafone Super Rugby season LIVE with no ad-breaks during play. Get it all on Foxtel
CHIEFS v HURRICANES at Hamilton’s FMG Stadium, Friday 5.35pm AEDT
All Blacks livewire Damian McKenzie has been shifted from five-eighth to fullback in the Chiefs team to play the Hurricanes.
McKenzie, one of the most influential players in Super Rugby, has been out of sorts so far this season and the Crusaders toyed with him in last weekend’s big win.
Most observers consider fullback to be his best position although the Chiefs No 10 jersey will still be worn by a McKenzie — older brother Marty.
Former Rebels five-eighth Jack Debreczeni scored a try on debut off the bench against the Crusaders but was unavailable for selection against the Hurricanes.
Debreczeni joins a lengthy Chiefs injury list that also includes Sam Cane, Solomon Alaimalo, Stephen Donald, Kane Hames, Atu Moli and Lachlan Boshier.
Japan international Ataata Moeakiola makes his first start of the season on the left wing ahead of Etene Nanai-Seturo.
Chiefs coach Colin Cooper is under pressure to keep his job after an 0-4 start to the season.
“We have had a testing couple of weeks and we know the Hurricanes will be a strong challenge,” Cooper said.
“We are not afraid of the contest on Friday, we have come together as a team and will focus on sticking to our structures and working on delivering our game plan.”
Meanwhile, Hurricanes coach John Plumtree has moved Vaea Fifita to lock in a move that won’t impress All Blacks boss Steve Hansen.
Hansen has made it clear that he views blindside flanker as his best position and Fifita himself prefers to play with No 6 on his back.
Fifita replaces Liam Mitchell, who drops to the bench, with Reed Prinsep slotting in on the blindside.
The propping rotation also continues, with Toby Smith and Ben May in for Chris Eves and Jeff Toomaga-Allen while Wes Goosen is in on the left wing for the rested Ben Lam.
Former Crusaders loose forward Heiden Bedwell-Curtis and Auckland winger Salesi Rayasi are poised to make their Hurricanes debuts from the bench in what will be outstanding centre Ngani Laumape’s 50th game for the club.
“We said at the start of the season that we want to trust our squad and be smart with how we use our players and Heiden and Salesi have worked really hard and deserve their chance if the opportunity presents itself,” Plumtree said.
“We have real belief in the other players we have brought in and we are also really happy for Ngani to bring up his 50th match in what promises to be a tough New Zealand derby against a dangerous Chiefs team.”
CHIEFS (15-1): Damian McKenzie, Sean Wainui, Tumua Manu, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ataata Moeakiola, Marty McKenzie, Brad Weber, Tyler Ardron, Michell Karpik, Mitchell Brown, Michael Allardice, Brodie Retallick (c), Nepo Laulala, Nathan Harris, Aidan Ross
Reserves: Samisoni Taukei’aho, Ryan Coxon, Angus Ta’avao, Taleni Seu, Luke Jacobson, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Alex Nankivell, Etene Nanai-Seturo
HURRICANES (15-1): Chase Tiatia, Jordie Barrett, Matt Proctor, Ngani Laumape, Wes Goosen, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Ardie Savea, Du’Plessis Kirifi, Reed Prinsep, Vaea Fifita, James Blackwell, Ben May, Dane Coles (c), Toby Smith
Reserves: Asafo Aumua, Fraser Armstrong, Alex Fidow, Liam Mitchell, Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Finlay Christie, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Salesi Rayasi
Referee: Mike Fraser (NZ)
NEW PODCAST! Former Scotland five-eighth Dan Parks on who should wear No 10 for the Wallabies, insight into Scott Johnson and analysis of the Australian Super Rugby teams
BRUMBIES v WARATAHS at Canberra’s GIO Stadium, Friday 7.45pm AEDT
Despite a 1-3 start to the season, Brumbies coach Dan McKellar is taking no chances with his injured Wallabies stars David Pocock and Allan Alaalatoa.
McKellar announced his team on Wednesday night but he had previously drawn a line through the names of flanker Pocock (calf) and prop Alaalatoa (wrist).
Pocock’s calf has bothered him since the controversial Wallabies fitness camp in January.
Alaalatoa has been cleared of major damage but both players could miss two weeks, opening the door for Leslie Leulua’iali’i-Makin to make a rare start at tighthead.
The Brumbies are well served in the backrow with Rob Valetini, Tom Cusack and Lachie McCaffrey foring a solid unit and Pete Samu to come off the bench.
Lausii Taliauli also won selection on the wing and will make his first Super Rugby start of the season, while Tom Ross and Mack Hansen can make their Brumbies debut off the bench.
“It’s the Tahs at home, an opportunity to get stuck into the New South Welshmen, what more do you need to get excited,” McKellar said.
“You’re playing against NSW whether it’s rugby, marbles or whatever.
“Yeah I’m a Queenslander, but I’m a Brumbies man now and there’s a dislike for the Tahs.”
Meanwhile, Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson has rewarded the majority of the team that beat the Reds at the SCG by making just one change to his starting side.
Former Wallaby Curtis Rona, who performed strongly against the Reds and scored a try, drops out of the squad entirely, with Alex Newsome taking his starting spot on the left wing.
MORE RUGBY NEWS
BIG MOVERS: Five fringe Wallabies that nailed World Cup auditions
COULD IT GET ANY WORSE? Reds’ sad slide highlighted in new low
FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED: Genia showing Wallabies the way forward
Newsome made a good impression off the bench at the SCG and scored a crucial second half try to seal the 28-17 victory.
Winger is a competitive position at NSW and former Australian sevens star Cam Clark returns to the bench.
Gibson said his rotation policy would continue throughout the season but acknowledged Rona was unlucky and that the players “don’t like it.”
“You never like to be rotated out of a squad, nor give another person opportunity,” Gibson said.
“But in the modern game, particularly this season where we’ve been asked to manage our team better, that’s part of it.
“It doesn’t mean that’s the bullet and that’s you for the year.
“Both Cam and Alex are guys that consistently do a lot of work.
“GPS, Alex is consistently the highest on that so we know he’s got an excellent workrate.”
Wallabies halfback Nick Phipps has been named on the bench and is set for his first gametime of the season after finally recovering from a calf tear sustained at a national fitness camp in January.
“That energy that Nick brings — he is a bad patient,” Gibson said.
Mitch Short makes way for Phipps while Wallabies veteran Tatafu Polota-Nau will again provide backup for Damien Fitzpatrick.
Flanker Will Miller (ankle) is out for two more weeks.
BRUMBIES (15-1): Tom Banks, Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Irae Simone, Lausii Taliauli, Christian Lealiifano, Joe Powell, Lachlan McCaffrey, Tom Cusack, Rob Valetini, Sam Carter, Rory Arnold, Leslie Leulua’iali’i-Makin, Folau Fainga’a, Scott Sio
Reserves: Josh Mann-Rea, James Slipper, Tom Ross, Murray Douglas, Pete Samu, Ryan Lonergan, Jordan Jackson-Hope, Mack Hansen
WARATAHS (15-1): Kurtley Beale, Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Karmichael Hunt, Alex Newsome, Bernard Foley, Jake Gordon, Jack Dempsey, Michael Hooper (c), Ned Hanigan, Rob Simmons, Jed Holloway, Sekope Kepu, Damien Fitzpatrick, Harry Johnson-Holmes
Reserves: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Rory O’Connor, Chris Talakai, Ryan McCauley, Lachlan Swinton, Nick Phipps, Mack Mason, Cam Clark
Referee: Glen Jackson (NZ)
STORMERS v JAGUARES at Cape Town’s Newlands Stadium, Saturday 4.10am AEDT
Referee: Jaco Peyper (SA)
SUNWOLVES v REDS at Tokyo’s Prince Chichibu Stadium, Saturday 3.15pm AEDT
Referee: Damon Murphy (AUS)
HIGHLANDERS v CRUSADERS at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium, Saturday 5.35pm AEDT
Referee: Brendon Pickerill (NZ)
LIONS v REBELS at Johannesburg’s Emirates Airlines Park, Sunday 12.05am AEDT
Referee: Egon Seconds (SA)
BYES: BLUES, BULLS, SHARKS