Brumbies pin hopes on young fullback
BRUMBIES coach Stephen Larkham is poised to give youngster Jordan Jackson-Hope a run-on debut and recall Tomas Cubelli to help the Australian conference champions create some pre-finals momentum against the Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday.
The ACT side will take on the Kiwi outfit in the final regular season game of Super Rugby, but with a home quarter-final already booked for the following week. Depending on results, the Brumbies will host the Chiefs for a second straight game or the Hurricanes.
No Aussie side has beaten a Kiwi team this year - or won across the ditch since March 2015 - but Larkham's side will be desperate to find form after losing to the match to the Reds last weekend and outside backs Kyle Godwin and Aidan Toua to injury for the rest of the year.
It's understood Larkham has made the call to give 21-year-old Jackson-Hope a key role in a backline reshuffle.
The Canberra-raised rookie will start at No.15, with Tom Banks moved to Toua's vacant wing. Andrew Smith appears the man to replace Godwin. Pumas halfback Cubelli is also due to take back the No.9 jersey from Joe Powell.
Another product of St Edmunds College, Jackson-Hope played Aussie schools and under 20s and progressed through the Brumbies academy. He made a Super Rugby debut last year and was on an EPS this year, but recently signed a two-year, full-time contract. He has played six Super Rugby games from the Brumbies bench.
Normally a centre or five-eighth, Jackson-Hope will look to emulate the attacking role of similarly sized Chiefs fullback Damian McKenzie - he weighs 82kg and stands at 175cm.
The Brumbies' last win over a New Zealand side was a soul-sapping 10 games ago, when they beat the Hurricanes at home in round one of 2016.
The Canes went on to win the competition, however, and are considered one of the hottest teams again this year with the likes of Beauden and Jordie Barrett, Ardie Savea and Ngani Laumape.
There's not much in it but of the two potential finals foes, the Chiefs are potentially a more preferable team for the Brumbies to face.
In an interesting twist, however, the Brumbies beating the Chiefs this weekend would mean they'll face the Hurricanes a week later.
Beating the Chiefs in New Zealand would bring such levels of belief and confidence, however, the Brumbies would gladly welcome that scenario.
Chiefs v Brumbies, 3.15pm; Force v Waratahs, 7.45pm (times AEST)