Super Rugby round 11
Brumbies to probe former coach's defence
April 26, 2013
Brumbies' forward Ben Mowen skips through a tackle, Brumbies v Southern Kings, Super Rugby, Canberra Stadium, Canberra, April 5, 2013
Brumbies captain Ben Mowen is wary of the threat posed by the Western Force © Getty Images

The Brumbies know the Western Force defensive line is going be one hard nut to crack in their Super Rugby clash on Saturday night.

The Brumbies know because they invested in the same defence coach just last year. Defence consultant David Wessels was a significant factor behind the rejuvenated Brumbies in their 2012 campaign.

The Brumbies, now under the defence tutelage of former National Rugby League coach Brian Smith, have since ramped it up another notch by conceding the least amount of points per game this year.

However, the Force have conceded 11 points less than the table-topping Brumbies over the past six games.

Brumbies captain Ben Mowen says he has observed similar structures developing at the Force to what the Brumbies are still using.

"I did see Dave Wessels - when he was leaving here - take Jake's playbook," Mowen joked. "They're a side that has strong structures around the way they would like to defend."

Throw in a handful of back-rowers who thrive at slowing the ball at the ruck and it makes for one tight, gritty Australian derby scheduled for chilly Canberra on Saturday.

The breakdown battle will be especially intriguing courtesy of the difference in balance between the two highly regarded back rows.

As strong ball carriers, who also like to get sneaky at the ruck, the Force's combination of captain Matt Hodgson, Richard Brown and Ben McCalman can cover for each other in all three positions.

The Brumbies back row, on the other hand, have clearly defined roles in the side, with Mowen the workhorse and lineout jumper, No. 8 Fotu Auelua the enforcer and openside flanker George Smith the breakdown nuisance.

"It's the way that I've always picked sides," Brumbies coach Jake White said. "You look at Juan Smith, Schalk Burger and Pierre Spies as a back-row combination, it's very similar to what I'm used to and see working as a group. The Force back-rowers could all play openside if they had to. But that just shows you how tough they are on the ball."

The top-of-the-table Brumbies beat the third-last-placed Force twice last year. But Mowen knows his side will have to be at the top of their game unless they want to add to the Force's big-game scalps of the Reds and Crusaders in 2013.

"We're well aware of the Force and the mentality they have around trying to knock over the top sides," he said. "I think they're definitely playing for each other. You can see it in the way that they've been desperate against the Crusaders and pulled off that great win and the way they defended in Brisbane against the Reds."


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