Untimely blow for Australian rugby’s great hope

Australia’s Super Rugby standard bearers, the Brumbies, have been hit with an untimely double blow with Wallabies Rob Valetini and Noah Lolesio ruled out of Friday night’s marquee match-up with the Crusaders in Canberra.

Valetini is one of the competition’s form players but the Brumbies say the bruising backrower is set for “a period on the sidelines” after suffering a hamstring injury in last weekend’s win over the Chiefs in Hamilton.

Youngster Tom Hooper will start at blindside flanker in Valetini’s absence.

Watch every game of the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific and Shute Shield seasons, streaming ad free, live and on demand only on Stan Sport. Sign up for your free seven day trial!

Lolesio, meanwhile, is expected to miss just one game with Rodney Iona filling in at five-eighth against the Crusaders in a battle between the second and third-placed teams on the ladder.

On the positive side of the ledger, the Brumbies welcome back captain Allan Alaalatoa to the starting side at tighthead prop.

Alaalatoa came off the bench last weekend with Nic White the skipper.

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The Brumbies have won three straight games against New Zealand opponents and are Australia’s best shot at ending a Super Rugby title drought dating back to 2014.

“It’s disappointing to not have Noah and Rob available but we’ve backed our depth all season and we have full confidence in Hoops and Rodney to do a job for the team,” Brumbies coach Dan McKellar said.

“We’re all excited for what should be a great contest on Friday night against a team who have been the benchmarks in Super Rugby for a long time in the Crusaders.”

Meanwhile, Wallabies captain Michael Hooper has been buoyed by a more competitive showing by Australian teams in trans-Tasman matches.

“It’s great to see those teams win,” Hooper said at the launch of the Wallabies jerseys for 2022.

“I’ve definitely been in the camps where you death ride teams a bit, particularly the Aussie counterparts, and you’re not wanting to see them go well. I think that’s definitely changed for me.”

Hooper will miss NSW’s crunch game against the Hurricanes on Saturday night as he continues to recover from a heavy head knock.

But the Waratahs will welcome back former Wallabies Ned Hanigan and Paddy Ryan from overseas stints via the bench.

“Going into such a big game and having those two on the bench gives us a little more depth and bang at the back half of the game, and I’m excited to see how they go,” Waratahs coach Darren Coleman said.

Further north, Queensland’s slumping campaign has received a much needed boost with five-eighth James O’Connor named to return from a knee injury against the ladder-leading Blues.

“We’ve lost a couple of close ones in the last few weeks which has been disappointing,” Reds coach Brad Thorn said.

“We’ll take the learnings out of those games in what will be a tough contest this week.”

HIGHLANDERS vs FORCE in Dunedin, Friday 5.05pm AEST

HIGHLANDERS (15-1): Connor Garden-Bachop, Fetuli Paea, Josh Timu, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Scott Gregory, Sam Gilbert, Aaron Smith (co-c), Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, Billy Harmon, James Lentjes (co-c), Josh Dickson , Bryn Evans, Jermaine Ainsley, Andrew Makalio, Ethan de Groot

Reservations: Rhys Marshall, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Saula Mau, Fabian Holland, Hugh Renton, Folau Fakatava, Mitch Hunt, Liam Coombes-Fabling

STRENGTH (15-1): Jake Strachan, Byron Ralston, Kyle Godwin (c), Bayley Kuenzle, Manasa Mataele, Reesjan Pasitoa, Ian Prior, Tim Anstee, Ollie Callan, Fergus Lee-Warner, Izack Rodda, Jeremy Thrush, Santiago Medrano, Andrew Ready, Tom Robertson

Reservations: Feleti Kaitu’u, Bo Abra, Angus Wagner, Ryan McCauley, Brynard Stander, Michael McDonald, Jake McIntyre, Richard Kahui

BRUMBIES vs CRUSADERS in Canberra, Friday 7.45pm AEST

BRUMBIES (15-1): Tom Banks, Tom Wright, Len Ikitau, Irae Simone, Andy Muirhead, Rodney Iona, Nic White, Pete Samu, Jahrome Brown, Tom Hooper, Caderyn Neville, Darcy Swain, Allan Alaalatoa (c), Lachlan Lonergan, James Slipper

Reservations: Folau Fainga’a, Scott Sio, Tom Ross, Nick Frost, Luke Reimer, Rory Scott, Ryan Lonergan, Ollie Sapsford

CRUSADERS (15-1): Will Jordan, Sevu Reece, Jack Goodhue, David Havili, George Bridge, Richie Mo’unga, Bryn Hall, Cullen Grace, Ethan Blackadder, Pablo Matera, Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Fletcher Newell, Codie Taylor, George Bower

Reservations: Ricky Jackson, Finlay Brewis, Tamaiti Williams, Liam Hallam-Eames, Tom Christie, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Braydon Ennor, Leicester Fainga’anuku

Sean Maloney and Andrew Mehrtens review the latest round of Super Rugby Pacific, the first Wallaroos game in nearly three years and speak to Noah Lolesio after his exciting re-signing with Australian rugby

DRUA vs MOANA PASIFIKA in Sydney, Saturday 2.35pm AEST



Blues dazzle with ‘Cirque du Soleil’ try

BLUES vs REDS in Auckland, Saturday 5.05pm AEST


REDS (15-1): Jock Campbell, Suliasi Vunivalu, Josh Flook, Hunter Paisami, Jordan Petaia, James O’Connor, Tate McDermott (c), Seru Uru, Angus Scott-Young, Connor Vest, Angus Blyth, Ryan Smith, Feao Fotuaika, Albert Anae, Dane Zander

Reservations: Matt Faessler, Harry Hoopert, Sef Fa’agase, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Tuaina Taii Tualima, Kalani Thomas, Hamish Stewart, Lawson Creighton

WARATAHS vs HURRICANES in Sydney, Saturday 7.45pm AEST

WARATAHS (15-1): Alex Newsome, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Izaia Perese, Lalakai Foketi, Dylan Pietsch, Tane Edmed, Jake Gordon (c), Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, Charlie Gamble, Will Harris, Hugh Sinclair, Jed Holloway, Archer Holz, Dave Porecki, Angus Bell

Reservations: Mahe Vailanu, Te Tera Faulkner, Paddy Ryan, Ned Hanigan, Langi Gleeson, Jack Grant, Ben Donaldson, Triston Reilly


Rebels stun Blues with brilliant start

REBELS vs CHIEFS in Melbourne, Sunday 2pm AEST

REBELS (15-1): Reece Hodge, George Worth, Andrew Kellaway, Stacey Ili, Glen Vaihu, Carter Gordon, James Tuttle, Rob Leota, Brad Wilkin, Michael Wells (c), Josh Hill, Matt Philip, Pone Fa’amausili, Jordan Uelese, Matt Gibbon

Reservations: James Hanson, Cameron Orr, Cabous Eloff, Josh Canham, Richard Hardwick, Joe Powell, Nick Jooste, Lukas Ripley


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