Brumbies captain Ben Mowen says denying Western Force flanker Matt Hodgson at the breakdown will be pivotal in Friday’s must-win Super Rugby clash.
Operation deny Matt Hodgson.
No Super Rugby player has pilfered as much or forced more turnovers this season than the immovable Western Force flanker and captain.
Brumbies skipper Ben Mowen knows it. And his team has specifically planned for it ahead of Friday’s quasi-final at Canberra Stadium.
“Hodgson is obviously leading the competition with pilfers, so we’ve got to make sure we’re denying contests there and not letting him in – because once he’s in, he’s good enough to turn it over,” Mowen says.
“If we’re good in that area, we’ll come away with a good result.”
Fortunately for the Brumbies they won’t have to also budge burly blindside flanker Hugh McMeniman, who copped a one-week suspension for kneeing in last week’s win over the Queensland Reds.
He’ll be replaced by Brynard Stander.
“Losing players always hurts, but I suppose the Brumbies would feel the same way about Stephen Moore,” said Force coach Michael Foley.
However the Brumbies will welcome back numerous Test players, including workhorse Sam Carter.
The once-underrated lock features in the top two for most tackles and rucks hit in almost every game he plays.
Mowen admits there’s probably no team more important for Carter to return against than the breakdown-dominant Force.
“He’s gone from a big performer for us to a man-of-the-match Wallaby,” Mowen said.
Also returning for the Brumbies will be Test star Matt Toomua at five-eighth, while fit-again third string hooker Josh Mann-Rea will steady the set-piece.
The winner of the match is guaranteed a spot in the Super Rugby finals, while the loser will need to pick up a losing bonus point to have a chance of remaining in the competition.
That’s easier said than done for the Brumbies, who haven’t won a last round match since 2007 – their chokes against the Force last year and the Blues the year before costing them dearly.
The Force have listed Nick Cummins to play in what could possibly be his last Super Rugby match before jetting off to Japan, while former reserve Brumbies halves Zack Holmes and Ian Prior will be out to prove a point against their old teammates.
The game will also be Ben Mowen’s 49th as Brumbies captain – equalling the club record of legend George Gregan.
Force: Jayden Hayward, Dane Haylett-Petty, Solomoni Rasolea, Chris Tuatara-Morrison, Nick Cummins, Zack Holmes, Ian Prior, Ben McCalman, Matt Hodgson (c), Brynard Stander, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Sam Wykes, Kieran Longbottom, Nathan Charles, Pek Cowan. Res: Heath Tessmann, Tetera Faulkner, Oliver Hoskins, Adam Coleman, Chris Alcock, Alby Mathewson, Luke Burton, Dillyn Leyds/Sias Ebersohn.
Brumbies: Jesse Mogg, Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, Clyde Rathbone, Matt Toomua, Nic White, Ben Mowen (c), Jarrad Butler, Scott Fardy, Sam Carter, Leon Power, Ben Alexander, Josh Mann-Rea, Scott Sio. Res: Ruaidhri Murphy, Ruan Smith, JP Smith, Fotu Auelua, Tom McVerry, Michael Dowsett, Joe Tomane, Pat McCabe.