Test spots last thing on Brumbies' minds
July 22, 2014
Scott Sio isn't thinking beyond Saturday's crunch match against New South Wales © Getty Images
It's a Super Rugby blockbuster so chock-full of Test experience that you could start two Wallabies sides, but jostling for green and gold jerseys will be the last thing on the players' minds.
The Waratahs v Brumbies clash is being billed as the biggest Australian derby since the two sides last met in a semi-final 12 years ago - with expectations of a 35,000-strong crowd to show up at Allianz Stadium. And in what will only add extra spice to the build-up, Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie will announce a 32-man squad for the Rugby Championship, which begins in August, on Wednesday morning.
It means Saturday's knockout match will be the last chance for some players who made the cut to impress McKenzie for a match-day spot. But Brumbies prop Scott Sio - who came off the bench in the third Test against France - is adamant Wallabies selection issues won't factor in the players' minds. Not when there's a Super Rugby grand final spot up for grabs.
"Not at all. It's all about making sure that we get the result done," Sio said. "For me, I can't be worrying about things like that. I've got to make sure I get my job done first and foremost so the team functions."
Sio's duel against Test stalwart Benn Robinson - who was a shock exclusion from the Test squad to take on France - will be just one of a dozen key skirmishes.
Principle match-ups include: Israel Folau v Jesse Mogg; Henry Speight v Rob Horne; Kurtley Beale v Christian Leali'ifano; Ben Alexander v Sekope Kepu; Adam Ashley Cooper v Tevita Kuridrani; Wycliff Palu v Ben Mowen; Sam Carter v Kane Douglas.
The list goes on.
But perhaps the most crucial battle will be between in-form No.10s Bernard Foley and Matt Toomua, while the showdown between their delivery agents Nick Phipps and Nic White should also prove pivotal.
On paper, the Waratahs have the edge, with 18 internationals expected in their 23-man squad - including South African hardman Jacques Potgieter - and only skipper Dave Dennis out injured.
The Brumbies, on the other hand, are set to name about 13 players with Wallabies experience, and will be crucially missing injured stars Stephen Moore and David Pocock - both of whom have skippered the national side. But the Brumbies appear to be thriving on the underdog status.
"They came first, we came fourth. They've been excellent this year and they're at home," Brumbies backrower Scott Fardy said. "They're definitely favourites this week."