On the penultimate weekend of Super Rugby AU, the third-placed Waratahs (15) must beat the fourth-placed Rebels (14) to have any chance of making the top-three and qualifying for the finals given they have a bye in the final round of the regular season.
If the Waratahs were to win by a bonus-point and deny the Rebels a losing bonus-point, they would sew up third spot on the standings.
Team News: Brumbies v Western Force
Brumbies head coach Dan McKellar has recalled experienced scrumhalf Joe Powell to the starting side for the with the Western Force at GIO Stadium on Friday. Powell is the only change to the starting XV with coach Dan McKellar choosing to keep the same forward pack that defeated the Waratahs last Saturday night.
Wallabies prop James Slipper and skipper Allan Alaalatoa will again pack down with hooker Connal McInerney in the front row, while Cadeyrn Neville caps off a big week after re-signing with the club, pairing with Murray Douglas in the second row.
The backrow sees Lachlan McCaffrey starting at blindside flanker with Will Miller wearing the number seven jersey and last week's Man of the Match, Pete Samu anchoring the back of the scrum. Powell will partner Bayley Kuenzle in the halves with the dangerous pairing of Irae Simone and Solomone Kata holding down the midfield. After bagging another two tries last week Tom Wright remains on the wing with fellow try-scorer Andy Muirhead on the other edge and the elusive Tom Banks at fullback.
Wallaby Folau Fainga'a makes his return to the matchday squad as replacement hooker with Scott Sio and Tom Ross the finishing props, McKellar opting to return to a 5/3 bench with Darcy Swain and Rob Valetini the other forward finishers. After making a successful return in Brumbies colours last week, Nic White will again get an opportunity off the pine alongside promising young playmaker Reesjan Pasitoa and the hard-hitting Len Ikitau.
Western Force centre Henry Taefu and utility back Marcel Brache will make their return to the starting line-up with the Western Force making six changes to the squad that faced the Reds in Queensland last week. Taefu, who was on the bench last week and previously started for the Force in the first Super Rugby AU clash with the Brumbies a month ago, replaces New Zealand veteran Richard Kahui who moves to the bench.
Samoan national representative, Taefu, has performed consistently all season and will play an important role in getting the Force on the front foot whilst also providing solid defensive cover which will be crucial against the league leaders. The versatile Brache, who featured as a centre in the previous clash with the Brumbies and last started on the left-wing against the Rebels at the end of July, makes his return on the right-wing in place of Byron Ralston.
In another change amongst the backs, Jack McGregor is restored to his more familiar role at fullback after featuring at flyhalf against the Reds last week. He replaces Jack Strachan who moves to the bench, with veteran Jono Lance back in the run-on fifteen at number 10 after playing off the bench last week. Coach Tim Sampson has kept faith with the bulk of the forward pack that performed admirably against the Reds, with just one change made in the back row. Henry Stowers returns to the side after missing the Reds match and Brynard Stander, who has been prominent in all six Force matches to date, moves to the bench in place of Ollie Callan.
There are two changes amongst the reserves, as hooker Feleti Kaitu’u replaces veteran Heath Tessmann, and promising young flanker Tevin Ferris will make an eagerly-awaited return from injury, replacing Johan Bardoul in the matchday 23
Team News: Waratahs v Melbourne Rebels
Waratahs head coach Rob Penney has thrown Tepai Moeroa in the deep end, calling up the former NRL back-rower for his first maiden Super Rugby AU match for their do-or-die match against the Melbourne Rebels on Saturday.
It's a largely unchanged squad for Penney, who has continued with the core group of players that have featured over the majority of the competition to date. Despite being given every opportunity to prove his fitness, Karmichael Hunt has been ruled out after being a late scratching ahead of the Waratahs trip to Canberra last weekend.
Tepai Moeroa has been named in his place, earning his first start in Super Rugby AU. After making his Waratahs debut last week in Canberra, Nick Malouf retains his spot on the bench alongside Ben Donaldson and Mitch Short. Will Harris also returns to the reserves after an extended injury lay-off due to an ankle injury.
For the Rebels, Dave Wessels has named just two changes to his starting lineup to face the Waratahs in their Round 9 Super Rugby AU blockbuster against the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday. Fan favourite Pone Fa’amausili makes way for Wallaby Jermaine Ainsley whilst Michael Wells slides into the XV at the expense of Josh Kemeny. The changes see a sizeable amount of experience brought back into the run-on side with an additional 100 Super Rugby caps bolstering the Rebels pack.