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Holmes promoted to test Waratahs defence

11/03/2009 08:04:07 PM Comments (0)

Halfback Josh Holmes has been promoted to the Brumbies' starting side as part of desperate efforts to reignite a misfiring backline for this week's clash with the NSW Waratahs.

It's one of a string of changes made by Brumbies coach Andy Friend as his side tackles the unbeaten Tahs in Canberra.

The Brumbies have lacked penetration with the ball in hand in their last two outings and Friend believes the selection of Holmes ahead of Patrick Phibbs should speed up the service from the base of the scrum.

It is a move which is designed to free up the Brumbies' midfield which has also been rejigged with Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock reverting to his more customary role of outside centre.

The 76-Test veteran will be partnered in the midfield with Tyrone Smith, who like Holmes, will start for the first time this season.

Friend is confident Holmes - touted ahead of the Super 14 season as a player likely to threaten for Wallabies selection in 2009 - will test out the Waratahs' defensive line.

"We've probably played a bit too narrow in the last few games," Friend said on Wednesday.

"Stirling's also key to that. I think he'll be more comfortable in 13 in his old position."

Friend said Holmes had provided the team with some "spark" at crucial times when coming off the bench in the Brumbies' three matches this season.

"Phibbsy's done really well too though ... he adds real physicality around the ruck area and drives his forwards well."

"I just feel that for this game a bit quicker service from Josh will assist us in what we want to do."

Holmes, who left the Waratahs at the end of 2007, was obviously pleased to get his first start for the season, but said the fact he would be coming up against a side he used to play for in what is traditionally a blockbuster in the capital, had not entered his mind.

His focus was on sticking to the Brumbies' game plan and helping the side get back in the winner's circle after a loss to the Force in Canberra two weeks ago.

"You're definitely always looking for options for yourself, and if a gap opens up you want to take it, but my first priority is to give the backs quick and clean ball," Holmes said.

"I've been working on my speed and hopefully I can give Christian (Lealiifano) some good ball."

Lealiifano, who has been lacklustre since stealing the show with a match-winning drop goal in the Brumbies' first match against the Highlanders, has retained his place at five-eighth.

Friend, however, has made a number of other changes in an effort to get the Brumbies' season back on track.

Adam Ashley-Cooper moves from inside centre to the wing with Clyde Rathbone relegated to the bench.

Friend has also opted for Peter Kimlin at No.6 ahead of Julian Salvi in a move he said was aimed at providing the side with some more "grunt".

"I think he's someone that can dent the line for us," Friend said.

Hooker Huia Edmonds comes onto the bench for his first appearance in the Brumbies' match-day 22 for 2009.

Shawn Mackay has been bracketed with Sitaleki Timani, who is in doubt after sustaining a knee injury when playing for the Brumby Runners against the Australian Barbarians on Sunday.

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