Wallabies back-rower Scott Fardy will play in the Brumbies’ potentially season-defining Super Rugby clash with the lowly Western Force on Saturday, but David Pocock remains sidelined.
Fardy was left bloodied and bruised after copping a knock to the head and hurting his shoulder in last week’s loss to the Blues in Auckland.
But coach Stephen Larkham on Thursday named him for the last-round battle at GIO Stadium after giving him a couple of days off, making just one change to his starting line-up.
Prop Ruan Smith will replace Ben Alexander in the run-on side to celebrate his 50th Super Rugby cap, with Alexander – who this week signed a one-year deal with the ACT franchise – moving to the bench.
Pocock (fractured eye socket) and Jordan Smiler (knee) both trained with the squad this week but were still not fit to play.
“It’s good to see both of them running around and getting close to play,” co-captain Christian Lealiifano said.
It’s been an intense week on the paddock for the Brumbies, according to Lealiifano.
The Australian conference leaders are looking to retain their place on top of the ladder and secure a place in the finals – but it will largely be determined by Friday night’s match between the NSW Waratahs and Blues.
If the Tahs lose by more than seven points, the Brumbies will get a home playoff regardless of their result on Saturday.
Anything else, and Larkham’s men will have to match or beat it when the play the Force to get that spot.
It could have a huge bearing on how they approach the game, but lock Sam Carter is refusing to buy into it.
“I guess some blokes will be thinking like that but, if we’re thinking like that at this stage of the season, we don’t deserve to be in the final,” the Wallaby said.
“We’ve got a pretty strong mindset heading into this weekend.”
Carter said discipline and defence had been a key focus this week, after a somewhat “flimsy” effort – especially in the first half – against the Blues.
He rates the last-placed Force a dangerous prospect, even though they’ve won just two games all season.
“Whenever they play, they’re always in the contest and they’ve lost a few games by only 10 points,” he said.