Australia Captain Stirling Mortlock will make his long-awaited comeback in his 100th Super game for the Brumbies against the Chiefs in his familiar No13 jersey.
Bret Harris writes in The Australian that Mortlock and Wallabies outside back Adam Ashley-Cooper will make their first appearances of the season for the Brumbies, who have the bye this weekend, against the Chiefs in Canberra on Friday week.
Mortlock will also relieve George Smith of the captaincy and take over the goal-kicking duties from the injured Mark Gerrard.
There has been speculation about Mortlock playing inside centre. While that may be a long-term option, he will play outside centre against the Chiefs.
“I suspect Stirling will slot into 13,” Brumbies coach Laurie Fisher said.
“I’m not sure about playing him in an unfamiliar position with no training. We want to get the most out of him.”
Mortlock’s return will be a huge boost to the sixth-placed Brumbies, who are in the race for a top-four finish following their win against the Cheetahs in Canberra on Friday.
Not only is Mortlock the Brumbies’ best player, his presence will also lift his team-mates.
One player who will benefit enormously from having Mortlock alongside him is inside centre Tyrone Smith, who has done a good job in his rookie season.
“Tyrone Smith has been going well at 12,” Fisher said.
“He has been playing outside an inexperienced five-eighth (Christian Lealiifano) and an inexperienced 13 (Sanualio Afeaki) and he has been doing exceptionally well.
“The experience of Stirling Mortlock will enhance his game.”
Gerrard is expected to be sidelined for a couple of weeks with a hamstring injury, which means Ashley-Cooper will make his comeback in the No15 jersey.
“Gerrard is unlikely to play,” Fisher said. “I can’t see him playing. It’s not a major injury, but it could be. It will be a couple of weeks.”
Wallabies forwards Guy Shepherdson and Al Campbell, who returned from injury on the bench against the Cheetahs, are likely to start against the Chiefs.
“Shepherdson and Campbell will be better for having a run under their belt,” Fisher said.
The Brumbies needed to beat the winless Cheetahs at home to keep their finals hopes alive and they produced their first bonus-point victory for the season, winning 29-23.
“Like all games, it was pretty tough and was a hard contest at the tackle,” Fisher said.
“We were under pressure at the set pieces, but we put enough attack together to get four tries.”
Fisher knows it will be a significant step-up against the Chiefs, who beat the Bulls 43-27 in Rotorua on Saturday.
“It was this time last year that they started to play significantly better football,” Fisher said.
“I didn’t see last night’s game, but they seem to be getting more flow to their game.
“They will be quite a challenge. They have plenty of pace.”Tweet