Australia Brumbies brace for Waratahs backlash
Dismantling of Waratahs shows another layer to the Rebels
As Matt Toomua ran in one of the best individual tries of Super Rugby AU and of Australian rugby more broadly over the last few seasons on Friday night, it occurred to me that in 2021 there is a lot more to the Melbourne Rebels than first appeared in their opening game of the year. If you think back to their very pragmatic, very deliberate game plan to nullify the Queensland Reds in Round 2, and then think about their displays since then and particularly in Melbourne against the Waratahs, you realise that they have suddenly become one of the more adaptable Australian sides in recent memory.
Brumbies coach Dan McKellar has encouraged the NSW Waratahs to have faith in Australian talent in their search for a new coach.
And he has tipped his out-of-favour hooker Folau Fainga'a to have "plenty of fire in the belly" as the Brumbies prepare for the Waratahs' response on Friday, just days after coach Rob Penney was axed.
With the unbeaten Reds in the box seat to earn Super Rugby AU grand final hosting rights, the Brumbies cannot afford to slip up against the winless Waratahs.
"They'll have a bit more emotion and motivation on board this week no doubt," McKellar said.
Winless Waratahs swing axe for grudge match
The Brumbies have a new captain to host the Force while Waratahs coach Rob Penney has rung the changes against the high flying Reds. And in Super Rugby Aotearoa, the Highlanders will unleash a Japanese Test star against a struggling Hurricanes side that welcomes back Dane Coles.SUPER RUGBY AU, ROUND SIXBRUMBIES vs FORCE, Friday 7.45pm AEDT at GIO StadiumThe Brumbies will have another new captain for their clash with the Force, as halfback Nic White steps up to lead the side in the absence of Tom Cusack.
"Other codes and sports will talk about when a coach is unfortunately sacked, teams really front up the next week."
Penney was booted less than two seasons into the job, despite a spate of injuries to key players and a long list of departures before and after he arrived, as the club tightened their recruitment purse strings.
Assistant coaches Jason Gilmore and Chris Whitaker will lead the Waratahs at the SCG, while Australian women's sevens coach John Manenti is in the frame to take the job full time.
McKellar admitted Penney appeared to have received a rough hand but said the Waratahs' job should still be appealing, particularly to an emerging Australian coach.
"There's a lot of very, very good coaches in Australia," he said.
The Wrap: Wallabies squad unveiling a step forward and a step backward
Dave Rennie was at pains yesterday to point out that his new 40-man Wallabies squad was both a reflection of current Super Rugby form and a look towards the future. Australian rugby is moving forwards, and new selections like Feleti Kaitu’u, Angus Bell, Lachlan Lonergan, Darcy Swain, Tim Anstee, Josh Kemeny and Seru Uru are part of that future.
"And coaches are no different to players; until you give them a chance or opportunity you'll never know."
Wallabies winger Tom Wright (knee) will play his first game of the season for the Brumbies while Jake Gordon (ankle) will return to captain the Waratahs.
Fainga'a will start for the Brumbies after Australia coach Dave Rennie left him out of a 40-man Wallabies squad that will gather next month.
"It's a little bit of fire in the belly I suppose and (he needs to) understand it's not the final squad for the Bledisloe or Rugby Championship," McKellar said of his 16-Test hooker.
"It's a line in the sand there and I'm sure Dave's given them good feedback and (Fainga'a) will have that bit of competitive edge there and want to prove a point."
Meanwhile Australian sevens talents Lewis Holland and Jeral Skelton have been named on the bench for the Melbourne Rebels, who will host the Reds on Saturday.
Reds winger Suliasi Vunivalu (hamstring) will not play, with Bryce Hegarty promoted to fullback, Hamish Stewart back in the centres for his 50th Super Rugby game and Jock Campbell and Jordan Petaia sent to the wings.
Selection shake-ups for vital Super Rugby clash .
The Rebels and Force have rung the changes while the Brumbies and Reds have regained their captains. Read on for all the latest Super Rugby AU and Aotearoa team newsThe only place rugby fans can watch every match is Stan Sport. Start your free sport trial now! © Getty Jeremy Thrush of the Force tackles Cabous Eloff of the Rebels. SUPER RUGBY AU, ROUND EIGHTREBELS vs FORCE, Friday 7.45pm AEST at AAMI ParkThe Rebels and Force have opted for selection shake-ups for Friday's round eight clash which could prove decisive in the race for the third Australian finals spot.