A mob of Wallabies might be missing, but Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham still expects plenty of bite in Saturday’s pre-season trial against the NSW Waratahs.
Both sides have rested most of their World Cup stars for the clash in Wagga Wagga, naming large touring squads totalling 57 players – including many new faces.
Giant Wallabies lock Will Skelton returns from a pectoral injury for the Waratahs, while former NRL speedster Reece Robinson and ex-All Blacks winger Zac Guildford will make their debuts.
Argentina halfback Tomas Cubelli gets his first start for the Brumbies, alongside departing playmaker Matt Toomua and young gun Jordan Jackson-Hope at inside centre.
Fellow internationals Ben Alexander, Sam Carter, Tevita Kuridrani and Joe Tomane will also feature.
“Players from both teams are going out there with something to prove,” said Larkham.
“There’s a number of guys getting an opportunity in our team and it’s the same with their team, there’s a few Wallabies sitting out of their squad.
“So everyone who takes the paddock will be trying to put their best foot forward. And if that means a little bit of confrontation, then I’m sure they’ll bring that.”
The fierce rivalry between the Canberra and Sydney-based outfits is not lost on Super Rugby fans, nor new arrival Cubelli.
The 26-year-old watched a match between the sides when in Australia in 2013 and noted the “hate” on the field.
Tomane said games against the Waratahs were never easy and predicts another tough battle this weekend.
“We probably couldn’t have asked for a better team to trial against,” he told Sky Sports Radio on Friday.
“You always know what you’re going to get – a tough, physical side.
“The last couple of years they’ve shown how well they do in attack as well.
“Our defence will be tested this weekend, but we’ve been working really hard on that.
“It’ll be good to bleed not only our young guys but also guys who haven’t played for a while before the season starts.”
The Brumbies kick-off the 2016 season at home against the Hurricanes on February 26, with the Waratahs hosting the Queensland Reds the following night.