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Brumbies coach calls on forwards to lead

09/02/2009 03:49:00 PM Comments (0)

ACT Brumbies coach Andy Friend says a much-improved performance from his forwards will be needed if the Brumbies are to begin their 2009 Super 14 campaign on a winning note.

The Brumbies forward pack was outmuscled in a 17-14 trial loss to the Waratahs last week and Friend expects another physical encounter in Friday night's season-opener against the Highlanders in Dunedin.

"We were disappointed as a squad as to what we presented on Thursday night," Friend said on Monday.

"We definitely know we have to up the ante there for the Highlanders.

"They're a very physical side, very strong through the forwards and if we don't dominate in that area it will be a long night for us."

While the Highlanders are expected to struggle in 2009, having lost the services of key forwards in former All Blacks Anton Oliver and Carl Hayman, Friend said they won't be taken lightly.

"They're very dominant in the forwards. A lot of their set-piece play is the basis of their go-forward," he said.

"Jimmy Cowan at halfback is an integral part of their side.

"He'll ignite their attack and ignites their defence and Adam Thomson is probably one of the best backrow forwards going around in the game."

The expectation of a physical encounter may see the Brumbies name Patrick Phibbs at halfback instead of Josh Holmes, although the former is in some doubt with a calf injury.

"The important thing for us is to make sure that calf is nothing more than just a strain," Friend said.

"If it comes through that it is clear there's every likelihood that he may start."

The Brumbies will again play Stirling Mortlock at inside-centre, a role he filled for the Wallabies on their European tour late last year, with Adam Ashley-Cooper to start at outside-centre.

"I think 40 minutes against the Waratahs is not a fair indication as to what they can do, so we're very keen to see that again," he said.

The Brumbies have named a 23-man squad for the trip to Dunedin with doubts over the fitness of prop Ben Alexander (twisted knee) and utility forward Peter Kimlin (quadricep).

The starting side is expected to be named on Wednesday.

Forwards: Ben Alexander, Mark Chisholm, Ben Hand, Nic Henderson, Stephen Hoiles (capt), Peter Kimlin, Shawn Mackay, Stephen Moore, Julian Salvi, Guy Shepherdson, George Smith, Sitaleki Timani, John Ulugia.

Backs: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Francis Fainifo, Mark Gerrard, Josh Holmes, Christian Lealiifano, Stirling Mortlock, Patrick Phibbs, Clyde Rathbone, Tyrone Smith, Matt Toomua.

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