STEPPING UP: The Brumbies’ Jarrad Butler takes the ball forward last season against the Queensland Reds.
STEPPING UP: The Brumbies’ Jarrad Butler takes the ball forward last season against the Queensland Reds. Aap

Butler called on in Pocock’s absence

MORE injury woes to inspirational Brumbies flanker David Pocock have forced a back-row reshuffle for the team's away clash against the Chiefs tonight.

After suffering a grade-one syndesmosis to his ankle in the 47-3 win against the Reds in Canberra, Pocock will be assessed on a weekly basis.

The openside flanker has played just six games for the Brumbies as he enters his third season since moving from the Western Force - with each of the previous two seasons being ended by torn anterior cruciate ligaments.

He will be sorely missed against the Chiefs, who have several All Blacks returning to their line-up, including forwards Liam Messam and Brodie Retallick, and flyhalf Aaron Cruden.

But Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham has a ready-made replacement for Pocock at openside flanker - last season's best-and-fairest, Jarrad Butler.

Butler is to wear the No.7 and Ita Vaea will run on at No.8, coming into the starting line-up for the first time in two years.

Vaea has battled a serious heart condition in that time.

His elevation to the starting side brings Sean Doyle on to the bench.

The selection marks Doyle's first crack at a match-day 23 in Australia, having plied his trade with Ulster in Ireland for the past three years.

The rest of the team remains unchanged after last week's thrashing of the Reds.

"It's a pleasure to welcome Ita Vaea back to the starting side for the first time in two years," Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham said.

"In my time in rugby this has been one of the great fightback stories, right up there with Julian Huxley (who returned to the field after it was discovered he had a brain tumour)."

Meanwhile, Waratahs prop Sekope Kepu said he believed his team was ready to bounce back from its 25-12 loss, against the Western Force last Sunday, when it takes on the Rebels with an unchanged line-up in Melbourne tonight.

Kepu said his teammates had been "open and honest" with each other at training this week.

For the Rebels, just Tom Kingston remains on the injured list, with his return listed as "indefinite", as he recovers from patella tendinopathy.

Halfback Nic Stirzaker is also unavailable, suspended by SANZAR for one game.

Meanwhile, the Bulls will be out to redeem themselves, after last week's surprise home loss to the Stormers, when they host the Hurricanes early tomorrow morning.

Having opened their campaign with an impressive 22-8 win against the Lions in Johannesburg, the Hurricanes regain star centre Ma'a Nonu.

GAME DAY

REBELS v WARATAHS

AAMI Park, Melbourne

Tonight, 6.40 (Qld time)


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