All the action in the opening round of the 2021 Super Rugby AU season takes place on Friday with the Reds hosting the Waratahs in a mouth-watering derby before the Brumbies travel to Perth to take on the Western Force.
We take you through all the news from the four camps as well as the line ups for the opening round. To see kick-off times, stats and more, click on the game's line below.
Three players could potentially make their Super Rugby and Queensland Reds debuts with hooker Richie Asiata, lock Ryan Smith and outside back Ilaisa Droasese all named on the bench. It’s set to be a memorable night for starting hooker Alex Mafi who will celebrate his 50th cap for Queensland. The versatile Seru Uru will add to his two Queensland caps after being named at lock with Lukhan Salakaia-Loto currently suspended after he was shown a red-card during the Wallabies draw with Argentina late last year.
Angus Scott-Young will start at blindside flanker in the absence of captain Liam Wright who is sidelined with a high-ankle sprain. Stand-in skipper James O’Connor will again partner Tate McDermott in the halves, while Queensland’s backline boasts three Australian Test stars as Filipo Daugunu and Jordan Petaia present a formidable sight on either wing with Hunter Paisami at outside centre.
NSW Waratahs Head Coach, Rob Penney has named a squad full of young talent to take on the Reds, with seven players in line to make their NSW Waratahs debut. Newly named captain Jake Gordon will partner Will Harrison in the halves, with Izaia Perese set to make his NSW Waratahs debut against his former side in the centres alongside Joey Walton. Jack Maddocks named at fullback, will play his 50th Super Rugby match, and is joined in the back three by Alex Newsome and Wallabies squad member James Ramm.
Off season recruits Sam Caird and Jack Whetton form a brand-new locking combination, while Tom Horton gets the start at hooker joining Wallabies Angus Bell and Harry Johnson-Holmes in the front-row. Carlo Tizzano gets first crack at Michael Hooper’s vacated seven jersey and forms an exciting backrow with Jack Dempsey and Will Harris. Sio Tatola, Jack Grant, and NSW academy graduates Jeremy Williams and Tane Edmed are also in line to make their NSW Waratahs debuts from the bench.
REDS: (1-15): Dane Zander, Alex Mafi, Feao Fotuaika, Angus Blyth, Seru Uru, Angus Scott-Young, Fraser McReight, Harry Wilson, Tate McDermott, James O'Connor (c), Filipo Daugunu, Hamish Stewart, Hunter Paisami, Jordan Petaia, Jock Campbell
Reserves: Richie Asiata*, Harry Hoopert, Taniela Tupou, Ryan Smith, Tuania Tali Taualima, Moses Sorovi, Bryce Hegarty, Ilaisa Droasese
WARATAHS (1-15): Angus Bell, Tom Horton, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Sam Caird, Jack Whetton, Will Harris, Carlo Tizzano, Jack Dempsey, Jake Gordon (c), Will Harrison, James Ramm, Joey Walton, Izaia Perese, Alex Newsome, Jack Maddocks
Reserves: Dave Porecki, Tetera Faulkner, Sio Tatola, Jeremy Williams, Hugh Sinclair, Jack Grant, Tane Edmed, Mark Nawaqanitawase
Brumbies coach Dan McKellar will unleash Wallabies squad member Len Ikitau at outside centre in the side's opening round of Super Rugby AU against the Western Force in Perth. The 22-year-old will start for just the third time at Super Rugby level with ACT product Mack Hansen lining up for his first start on the wing, partnered by the ever-reliable Andy Muirhead and Wallabies fullback Tom Banks in the back three. James Slipper will play his 137th Super Rugby match at HBF Park, as part of an all-Test row that includes Folau Fainga'a at hooker and skipper Allan Alaalatoa in the number three jersey.
Darcy Swain and Cadeyrn Neville will partner as locks for the second time, with Jahrome Brown set to make his return to Super Rugby level alongside the damaging Rob Valetini and new first-time father Pete Samu in the backrow. Wallabies number nine Nic White will partner fellow Test playmaker Noah Lolesio in the halves with last year's Brumbies Back of the Year, Irae Simone set to take his place in the familiar position of inside centre.
The Western Force will debut five players in Friday’s blockbuster season opener against the reigning champion ACT Brumbies. Wallabies stars Tevita Kuridrani and Tom Robertson, Argentinians Santiago Medrano and Tomás Lezana, as well as Irish great Rob Kearney, have all been named in the starting line-up.
Captain Ian Prior will lead the team out for the Force’s first Super Rugby match in WA since 2017, exactly three years, seven months and four days ago. Along with the new recruits, fans will see familiar faces in Brynard Stander, Jono Lance and Marcel Brache, as well as homegrown players Kane Koteka and Kyle Godwin.
After a breakout year earning himself the 2020 Nathan Sharpe (Best and Fairest) Medal, Fergus Lee-Warner will be looking to continue his fine form on the big stage. Depth has been a crucial focus for head coach Tim Sampson during the off-season and the names in the reserves are a testament to the club’s recruiting. Former Wallaby prop Greg Holmes and World Cup-winning All Black Richard Kahui are both poised to make an impact.
Experienced Argentinian playmaker Tomás Cubelli and an Australian contingent, including dynamic flyhalf Jake McIntyre, Australian 7s representative Tim Anstee (Super Rugby debut) and towering lock Ryan McCauley, are all set to make their potential Force debuts from the benc
BRUMBIES (1-15): James Slipper, Folau Fainga'a, Allan Alaalatoa (c), Darcy Swain, Cadeyrn Neville, Rob Valetini, Jahrome Brown, Pete Samu, Nic White, Noah Lolesio, Mack Hansen, Irae Simone, Len Ikitau, Andy Muirhead, Tom Banks
Reserves: Connal McInerney, Harry Lloyd, Tom Ross, Nick Frost, Tom Cusack, Ryan Lonergan, Reesjan Pasitoa, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa
FORCE (1-15): Tom Robertson, Feleti Kaitu'u, Santiago Medrano, Jeremy Thrush, Fergus Lee Warner, Tomas Lezana, Kane Koteka, Brynard Stander, Ian Prior, Jono Lance, Marcel Brache, Kyle Godwin, Tevita Kuridrani, Byron Ralston, Rob Kearney
Reserves: Andrew Ready, Angus Warner, Greg Holmes, Ryan McCauley, Tim Anstee, Tomas Cubelli, Jake McIntyre, Richard Kahui