Talismanic Wallaby utility back Quade Cooper was just about the only name on the Rebels teamsheet that anyone wanted to talk about ahead of the Melbourne franchise’s visit to the capital to face the Brumbies.
The Brumbies should be the favourites in this match but such is the influence of Cooper that few are willing to write the Rebels off just yet.
The addition of Cooper has solidified what was a pretty handy backline with plenty of Super Rugby experience although Tom English might feel he has drawn the short straw as he prepares to mark the Brumbies powerful Tevita Kuridrani.
Cooper will be tested by the nowse and tencity of Christian Lealiifano, who made a successful return to rugby last year after a battle with leukaemia.
Retallick to lead Chiefs in mouthwatering clash against the Highlanders
The Rebels Namibian-born flanker Richard Hardwick will be tasked with competing with the Brumbies Zimbabwe-born David Pocock in a tantalizing openside tussle. Hardwick will have to fulfill the role of fetcher but can expect some help from blindside Angus Cottrell who has a reputation as a hard tackler. Cottrell could well be pressed into a lot of tackling with his opposite number Rob Valetini known for his running game.
The Brumbies have the edge experience-wise up front with Allan Alaalatoa and Folau Fainga’a now joined by former Reds skipper James Slipper. The Brumbies have given Slipper a shot at redemption. Slipper twice tested positive for illicit drugs and found himself on the outskirts at the Reds. Scott Sio starts on the bench after a disrupted pre-season.
Former Brumbies Isi Naisarani and Robbie Abel are making their first trip back to Canberra since making the switch to Melbourne.
American-born former Chiefs and Counties Manukau winger Toni Pulu has stated his ambition to become a Wallaby. The 30-year-old’s only international rugby experience thus far has come in Sevens rugby where he turned out for the island of Niue. Pulu has given up any hope of breaking into the All Black set up and set his sight on the more achievable goal of playing for Australia.
Brits to start grudge match against the Stormers
For the Rebels dual-code international wing Marika Koroibete appears to be committed to Union at least until after the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
The signing of Cooper for the Rebels overshadowed news of the return of Wallaby Matt Toomua to Australia but the back is still with Leicester and will only join the Melbourne franchise later in the season.
Brumbies v Rebels team news
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Toni Pulu, 10 Christian Lealiifano (c), 9 Joe Powell, 8 Lachlan McCaffrey, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper
Subs: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, 19 Blake Enever, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 Wharenui Hawera, 23 Andy Muirhead
Rebels: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty (c), 14 Jack Maddocks, 13 Tom English, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Anaru Rangi, 1 Tetera Faulkner
Subs: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Matt Gibbon, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Esei Ha’angana, 20 Brad Wilkin, 21 Rob Leota, 22 Michael Ruru, 23 Semisi Tupou
Match date: Friday 15 February
Venue: Gio Stadium Canberra
Kick off Time: 10:45 SAST
The post Super Rugby Squads: Quade Cooper’s return headlines Brumbies v Rebels team news appeared first on The South African.