Brumbies aim to regain top spot in Super 15
An under-strength ACT Brumbies get the chance to return to the top of the Super 15 standings with victory in this weekend's truncated round featuring only Australian teams.
Only two matches are scheduled at the start of the three-week window reserved for internationals with no New Zealand and South African involvement.
But the Australian teams will have to make do without their Wallabies, who are in camp for this month's test series against the British and Irish Lions.
The Brumbies, who will be missing their five Wallabies, can leapfrog New Zealand's Waikato Chiefs at the top of the Super Rugby standings if they beat the Melbourne Rebels in Canberra today.
Captain Ben Mowen, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, Christian Lealiifano and Joe Tomane are all unavailable due to national duty, forcing Brumbies coach Jake White to make changes.
Scrumhalf Nic White, 22, will become the youngest captain in Brumbies' history when he leads the Canberra-based team in the absence of Mowen.
"We owe them something in that way. They've done a great job for us over the last few weeks and played a lot of minutes," lock Scott Fardy said of the Brumbies' missing Wallabies.
"Most of them play 80 minutes for us, so we owe them a victory this week."
It will be the Brumbies' last home match of the regular season before next month's play-offs and they will be anxious to get a win over the Rebels, who will be without Wallabies James O'Connor and Nick Phipps.
The Rebels have been hard hit by injuries with Wallaby Scott Higginbotham and fellow forwards, Hugh Pyle and Jarrod Saffy, ruled out, opening the way for Welshman Gareth Delve to lead the side.
Luke Burgess, the 37-test scrumhalf, will return to Super Rugby from the bench after arriving from France this week.
"The team has come a long way over the last eight games, and with 10 changes this week we are looking forward to testing our squad depth against a strong Brumbies outfit," Rebels coach Damien Hill said.
The Rebels have been much improved during the course of the season and beat the Western Stormers and NSW Waratahs before testing the Queensland Reds in Brisbane last weekend, going down 33-20.
On Sunday, the Western Force will be strengthened by the return of the players who sat out their team's 69-17 hammering by the Lions in Perth on Wednesday for the home match against the Waratahs, who will be led by flanker Pat McCutcheon for the first time.
The absence of the team's 10 Wallabies and six injured players has created opportunities for five up-and-coming club players to make their NSW debuts.
The Waratahs have been particularly hard hit with Benn Robinson, Sekope Kepu, Kane Douglas, Dave Dennis, Michael Hooper, Wycliff Palu, Rob Horne, Berrick Barnes, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Israel Folau all unavailable due to international commitments.
This comes on top of a mounting injury toll with Tatafu Polota Nau (broken arm), Sitaleki Timani (broken thumb) and Lachie Turner (broken leg) all out for a prolonged spell.
The Reds, who take on the British and Irish Lions in Brisbane tomorrow will receive a Super Rugby bye this weekend.