Super Rugby AU’s defending champion Brumbies have vowed to play their part as the code begins a new era on Friday.
The most successful Australian outfit in recent history validated their status with a composed win in last season’s domestic decider against the improved Queensland Reds.
Rule tweaks including a golden try for extra-time games and a time clock on restarts and scrums will encourage more expansive play, while the code’s first free-to-air broadcast deal and a new-look Rugby Australia boardroom have contributed to a fresh feel.
Ahead of a trip to Perth to face the Western Force who have recruited heavily for their second season back in the Australian league, Brumbies coach Dan McKellar can sense the opportunity.
“There’s no doubt; we’ve been talking about it for a long time,” he said.
“When Super Rugby is an entertaining competition and the Wallabies are having success then rugby really thrives and I think that’s a genuine possibility this year.
“I like the concept of golden try and I think it’ll create a genuine spectacle in the back end of the game where there’s fatigue.
“There’s going to be more ball in play time, which is exciting and we’ve done a lot of work on our fitness and we feel ready to adapt and play at that tempo.
“It’s about mindset as well; you can have all the law variations under the sun, but if your mindset is to play a boring and mundane game it won’t appeal to the fence sitters.”
Wallabies prop Scott Sio will miss the tournament opener with a back complaint but they’re otherwise brimming with Test experience.
Nic White and Noah Lolesio will play in the halves while James Slipper, Folau Fainga’a and skipper Allan Alaalatoa form an all-Test front row. Centre Irae Simone is also back from injury.
Former Brumbies centre Tevita Kuridrani, Waratahs wantaway Tom Robertson, Santiago Medrano, Tomas Lezana (Argentina) and Rob Kearney (Ireland) will all make their Force debuts, while former Australian Sevens star Tim Anstee has been named on the bench.
“They’ve got internationals across the board and times have certainly changed where last year they were just happy to be in the competition,” McKellar said.
“But with the squad they’ve got there’s more pressure to perform; it’s going to be a real challenge for us.”
BRUMBIES: Tom Banks, Andy Muirhead, Len Ikitau, Irae Simone, Mack Hansen, Noah Lolesio, Nic White, Pete Samu, Jahrome Brown, Rob Valenti, Cadeyrn Neville, Darcy Swain, Allan Alaalatoa, Folau Faingaa, James Slipper. Reserves: Connal McInerney, Harry Lloyd, Tom Ross, Nick Frost, Tom Cusack, Ryan Lonergan, Reesjan Pasitoa, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa.