The Brumbies have given Jarrad Butler the nod to start at No.7 following a season-ending knee injury to David Pocock.
Unheralded Queensland-bred back-rower Jarrad Butler has been given the huge task of filling the boots of Australia’s two greatest modern day flankers against the Hurricanes on Friday.
Butler’s chance at openside for the Brumbies in Wellington comes after champion No.7 David Pocock went down late in Saturday’s Super Rugby win over the Western Force in Perth.
An arthroscopy on Wednesday confirmed he had re-ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament, forcing the 25-year-old to undergo a full reconstruction on his left knee – the same surgery he had in 2013 after round four.
Legendary flanker George Smith filled in for Pocock last season, and it remains unclear whether he’ll answer another SOS, so in the meantime Butler will be given first crack in the prized No.7 jumper after impressing at No.8 in the last two weeks.
Butler’s audition sets off a chain reaction in the forwards, with Leon Power in at lock, Scott Fardy moving to blindside and skipper Ben Mowen back to No.8.
A big man at 106kg, Butler won’t be as effective a ball scavenger as Pocock and Smith.
However that’s of little concern to skipper Ben Mowen, who downplayed concerns the re-jigged forward pack wouldn’t be mobile enough to combat a dynamic Hurricanes backrow that includes Samoan international Jack Lam and the impressive young Ardie Savea off the bench.
“The strength of our forward pack is that everyone is reasonably athletic,” Mowen told AAP.
“We’ve got guys that play hard on the ball, good lineout options, good tacklers, so we’ve just got to make sure we all get stuck in and share that load.
Mowen also put the Hurricanes on notice, saying his side would use Pocock’s devastating injury as a catalyst to spark a huge performance.
“We’re going to speak as a group and make sure this performance is a pretty special one,” Mowen said.
Meanwhile in the Brumbies’ backs, Test No.12 Pat McCabe is back on the bench following last week’s neck scare, giving Andrew Smith the nod at inside centre.
Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett says last year’s finalists present an important measuring stick for his side after starting their season with two losses in South Africa.
“We’re not far off. Certainly that second game, we should have won,” Hammett said.
“We’re under no illusions how important it is to start well at home.”
The Hurricanes’ Adam Hill is restored at blindside flanker in place of Faifili Levave (head knock), while fullback James Marshall pushes Marty Banks to the bench.
Brumbies: Jesse Mogg, Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Andrew Smith, Robbie Coleman, Matt Toomua, Nic White, Ben Mowen (c), Jarrad Butler, Scott Fardy, Sam Carter, Leon Power, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, Scott Sio. Res: Josh MannRea, Ruan Smith, JP Smith, Jordan Smiler, Lachlan McCaffrey, Conrad Hoffman, Pat McCabe, Lionel Cronje.