Ablett injury blow to Suns
THE Brumbies face an almighty task to tame Super Rugby attacking maestros the Hurricanes in tonight’s sudden- death quarter- final in Canberra.
With star All Blacks fiveeighth Beauden Barrett returning, the Hurricanes have named a stronger team than in last week’s defeat of the thenunbeaten Crusaders.
The Wellington- based club have set new Super Rugby scoring records this season, with 89 tries and 586 points at an average nudging 40 a game.
The Brumbies will take heart from their strong defensive record, having conceded the third- least points during the regular season despite losing nine of their 15 matches.
But with so many attacking weapons, the Hurricanes are hot favourites.
While Brumbies captain Sam Carter is relishing their underdog status, Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd is backing his experienced players to snuff out any signs of complacency within the group.
“I don’t think you write any team off in a playoff,” Boyd said. “I don’t think there’s any chance of us taking them lightly.”
With Carter on the verge of a fifth- consecutive finals campaign with the Brumbies, he painted a picture of a club constantly out to silence doubters through over- achievement.
“That’s why we came down to Canberra – for the opportunity to be the underdogs with a point to prove,” Carter said.
If the Brumbies are to find a way through the Hurricanes – whose defensive record has only been eclipsed by the ladder- topping Lions – the scrum and lineout battle will be paramount.
“We need to play to our strength which is our setpiece,” Carter said.
Players and fans will brave freezing conditions, with an overnight low of - 6C forecast. GOLD Coast have suffered another injury blow with Gary Ablett again succumbing to his dodgy hamstring.
Ablett has been in and out of the side for a month, missing away games against St Kilda, which was to be his 300th, and Sydney and playing the Kangaroos and Collingwood. He failed a test yesterday. The Suns now head to Cairns to pay the Bulldogs with Ablett, co- captain Steven May ( hamstring) and midfielder Jarryd Lyon ( ankle) all sidelined.
Key defender Rory Thompson is also in doubt with a back injury while co- captain Tom Lynch will carry an injury into the game.
Lynch has appeared restricted in his ability to jump for his marks in the past month but Suns coach Rodney Eade said injury was not the reason for his drop in form.
“He has had a bit of a hip, he hasn’t trained much this week and has had an injection to ease some problems there,’’ he said. “He is all right to play. “I think he has got his hands to the ball a lot, he just hasn’t held on to them.
“Whether that is affecting his mindset I’m not too sure but he is certainly not making any excuses and he has had enough opportunities to mark the ball. He just hasn’t marked as well as he has in the past.’’
The Suns have selected number seven draft pick Jack Scrimshaw to make his debut.
“He will be playing,’’ Eade confirmed.
“His form has been pretty good. We thought about playing last week and thought we’d give him one more week in the NEAFL.
“We see him as a player of the future and we think towards the end of the year if we can give a few of the younger players who haven’t played a game, give them a taste for it, it will show them what they have to work on over the pre- season.
“We think that their development.’’
Brayden Fiorini and Jesse Lonergan also come into the side.
Brisbane have made the one forced change to the side that lost to Richmond at Etihad Stadium on Sunday with Nick Robertson serving a onematch ban for headbutting Tigers skipper Trent Cotchin.
Darcy Gardiner, who is very much in the Robertson mould, returns after making a rapid recovery from a dislocated elbow suffered two weeks ago.
He is in an extended squad that also includes Marco Paparone and Michael Close.
Lions coach Chris Fagan said there had been no need to reprimand the hard- nosed defender.
“I haven’t spoken to him. He came and had a chat to me and he thought he went a bit over what was acceptable and he’ll take his punishment on the chin,’’ he said.
“He’s been fantastic for us this year, a real warrior, a real competitor, and we’ll look forward to having him back in the team.’’ will help