The Brumbies require a strong defensive display from winger Henry Speight against the Force in Canberra on Friday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
Speight is best known for his magical left-right steps and powerful fends, but he also has a robust defensive game that makes him one of the most reliable outside backs in the competition.
By his own standards, the 26-year-old has had a quiet start to the season. Having made zero clean breaks, no try assists and beaten just five defenders, it's Speight's time to shine against a Force side that leaked 42 points against the Hurricanes in Perth last weekend.
However, in one of two changes to the Force starting lineup, crowd favourite Nick 'The Honey Badger' Cummins makes his long awaited Vodacom Super Rugby return, and will test Speight defensively at every opportunity. Cummins, like Speight, has the ability to identify and exploit frailties in the some of the best defences and any error on the Fijian-born winger's part on Friday will be punished.
Of the six matches played in Canberra between these sides, it's a straight split with three wins apiece, but the Force did beat their hosts 31-21 in a pre-season friendly earlier this year.
Apart from their round-one win over the Waratahs, the Force have shown little enterprise on attack, but they did not have the services of Cummins then. Now he's back and his battle with Speight will go a long way in deciding the outcome in Canberra.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Brumbies 7, Force 5, Draw 1
In Canberra: Brumbies 3, Force 3
STATS AND FACTS
– The first 12 meetings between these sides yielded an average aggregate score of 39 points with only one game in this run seeing more than 41 points scored. However, their most recent clash in July 2014 saw 72 points scored in a 47-25 win for the Brumbies.
– The Force rank last when it comes to tackling (82%) and scrum (58%) success rates so far in 2015.
– The Brumbies have averaged fewer metres (281) and breaks (four) per game than any other side this season, despite kicking from hand less often than any other side on average (17.3).
– The Canberra-based side has been awarded more penalties per game (15) than any other team so far.
– The Brumbies’ Sam Carter has won the joint most lineouts (20) so far this season, while Rory Arnold and the Force’s Steve Mafi rank joint fifth in this regard (13).
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Brumbies||Christian Leali'ifano (36)||Tevita Kuridrani (2)||Henry Speight (125)||Jarrad Butler (32)|
|Force||Sias Ebersohn (11)||Chris Alcock, Francois van Wyk, Luke Morahan, Mitchell Scott (1)||Dane Haylett-Petty (51)||Ben McCalman (31)|
Brumbies – 15 Robbie Coleman, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Leali'ifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ita Vaea, 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 JP Smith, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Jordan Smiler, 20 Blake Enever, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 James Dargaville, 23 Jesse Mogg.
Force – 15 Luke Morahan, 14 Marcel Brache, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Solomoni Jnr Rasolea,11 Nick Cummins, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Brynard Stander, 5 Steve Mafi, 4 Sam Wykes (c), 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pekahou Cowan.
Subs: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Oliver Hoskins, 19 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 20 Kane Koteka, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Sias Ebersohn, 23 Luke Burton.
Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images