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Injuries force Brumbies reshuffle

16/04/2009 04:59:29 PM Comments (0)

Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock says his move to the wing was a logical solution as the Brumbies seek to deal with the Bulls' kicking game in Friday night's Super 14 clash.

Injuries to fullback Mark Gerrard (hamstring) and winger Alfi Mafi (groin) saw coach Andy Friend ask Mortlock to hand over his outside centre role to Tyrone Smith, while Gene Fairbanks will start at inside centre.

And Wallabies fullback Adam Ashley-Cooper will in the Brumbies' No.15 jersey for the first time this season.

"It seemed like the logical solution to get our best players on the paddock," Mortlock told AAP on Thursday.

"It's been a fair while for me playing in the back three but I'm looking forward to it.

"I started off my rugby career as a winger or fullback so it has been a fair while, but it shouldn't be too much of a drama."

Mortlock said the move was in part aimed at nullifying the prolific field kicking game of Bulls five-eighth Morne Steyn, which helped bury the NSW Waratahs last weekend.

"Obviously in light of playing the Bulls, it's not too bad an idea to get some guys at the back who can return the ball or kick," Mortlock said.

"A significant part of the game at the moment is the ability to solve opposition tactical kicking and to win the territory battle is pretty important."

Steyn won't be the only one ensuring Mortlock has a busy night, with the Wallabies captain set to mark one of Springboks pair Bryan Habana or Akona Ndungane.

The Brumbies farewelled teammate Shawn Mackay at his Sydney funeral on Wednesday, and Fairbanks said the players were looking to move on.

"We'll be looking to move forward, yesterday was emotionally very draining for everyone and it was a very sad day," he told reporters on Thursday.

"Playing for him now is something that we'll all definitely be trying to do."

The Brumbies will be looking for a third straight win in a match crucial to their chances of forcing their way into the play-offs.

"We got a big lift out of winning last weekend and having the funeral this week for Macca, it will be a big lift for the guys if we can have another win this weekend," Fairbanks said.

Friend admitted the loss of Gerrard against the Bulls would present a challenge.

"I think (Gerrard's) the best kicker in the competition ... and tomorrow night against a side that does like to kick too, without him there it is potentially a loss," Friend said.

"But Stirling can kick, Frankie (winger Francis Fainifo) has got a good high ball and chase and Adam Ashley-Cooper's a very solid kicker too so we'll be OK."

The Bulls have their own setbacks, Friend said, with Bakkies Botha suspended and captain Victor Matfield returning to South Africa for the birth of his second child.

"It's not ideal preparation but I suggest that the Bulls haven't had the ideal preparation either, losing two second-rowers," Friend said.

The Brumbies will welcome back captain Stephen Hoiles, who has recovered from a medial ligament tear in his left knee.

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