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Australian Super Rugby Conference Preview

The Reds were the last Australian team to win the title - in 2011

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Article Published: Thursday 13 February 2014






The Australian and New Zealand teams start Super Rugby a week later than their South African rivals and the Australian teams kick the season off with a match in Canberra between two former Champions the Brumbies and the Reds.

Here we take a brief look at the Australian teams and what could lie ahead for the Australian Super Rugby franchises.

BRUMBIES

Coach: Stephen Larkham

Captain: Ben Mowen

Stadium: Canberra Stadium

Best Finish: Champions (2001, 2004)

Bookies Odds to win 2014 Super Rugby title :Brumbies 12.00

Wallabies great Stephen Larkham steps up as head coach following the departure of Jake White, who quit mid-contract after being overlooked for the Australian national job.

The World Cup-winning fly-half will now attempt to recapture the Brumbies' glory days of early last decade, when he spearheaded their victories in the 2001 and 2004 finals.

Larkham has earned credit for his former role as the Brumbies' backs coach, when he moulded exciting Wallabies prospects Christian Lealiifano and Matt Toomua, as well as Fiji-born flyer Henry Speight.

Andrew Smith and Australia international Tevita Kuridrani are competing for the outside-centre spot and Japanese trailblazer Harumichi Tatekawa, the Brumbies' first Asian recruit, will hope to debut at inside centre in next week's season-opener against Queensland Reds.

WESTERN FORCE

Coach: Michael Foley

Captain: Matt Hodgson

Stadium: nib Stadium

Best Finish: Seventh (2007)

Bookies Odds to win 2014 Super Rugby title : Western Force 201.00

The Force look destined for an Australian conference wooden-spoon battle with the Rebels after finishing third from bottom overall last year and with the lowest number of tries in the competition.

Ex-Waratahs coach Michael Foley will want more cohesion and consistency from the team from Perth as they aim to improve on last year's showing.

Positives for the Force include winger Nick Cummins, who was named Australia's players' player of the year for 2013 after some outstanding performances during the Wallabies' European tour.

Playmaker Kyle Godwin is another go-to man and the Force will have to find their feet quickly with opening games against the Waratahs, Brumbies and the Rebels.

REBELS

Coach: Tony McGahan

Captain: Scott Higginbotham

Stadium: Melbourne Rectangular Stadium

Best Finish: 12th (2013)

Bookies Odds to win 2014 Super Rugby title : Rebels 151.00

The Rebels will want to put a troubled season behind them after Wallabies James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale were both cut loose over drink and disciplinary issues, and head coach Damien Hill followed them out of the door.

Former Australia assistant coach Tony McGahan arrives tasked with the stabilising and rebuilding effort at the head of a squad now light on big names and featuring only two Wallabies in club skipper Scott Higginbotham, their number eight, and veteran scrumhalf Luke Burgess.

Now entering their fourth Super rugby season, the Rebels are yet to set the competition alight and their ambition will be to reach the play-off series for the first time.

Former Highlanders, Hurricanes and Blues centre Tamati Ellison, 30, tops the list of new recruits after completing a stint in Japan's Top League.

REDS

Coach: Richard Graham

Captain: James Horwill

Stadium: Suncorp Stadium

Best Finish: Champions (2011)

Bookies Odds to win 2014 Super Rugby title : Reds 16.00

The Reds are expected to miss the attacking prowess of star winger Digby Ioane, now playing in France, but they can still count on the Wallabies halves pairing of Will Genia and Quade Cooper as they bid to recapture the Super trophy which they won so stylishly in 2011.

Coach Richard Graham helms the team after Ewen McKenzie left to take charge of Australia, and he led them into last year's play-offs, only to be taken down emphatically by the Crusaders -- runners-up to the Reds in 2011.

The playing squad remains largely stable and Graham will be keen to show improvements in attack after a low number of forays over the try-line last year. Young Fijian backs Samuela Kerevi and Chris Kuridrani are among the new arrivals.

WARATAHS

Coach: Michael Cheika

Captain: Dave Dennis

Stadium: Allianz Stadium

Best Finish: Second (2005, 2008)

Bookies Odds to win 2014 Super Rugby title :Waratahs 8.00

Kurtley Beale joins a star-studded line-up at the Sydney-based team as the Wallabies back aims to put last year's stint in rehab and departure from the Rebels firmly in the past.

League convert Israel Folau, Australia flanker Michael Hooper and newly-arrived South African hardman Jacques Potgieter are also at coach Michael Cheika's disposal as the Waratahs target their first ever Super rugby title, after missing the play-offs last year.

Young winger Alofa Alofa has turned heads in the pre-season, while All Blacks legend Andrew Mehrtens is bringing his expertise as a kicking coach.

Wallabies Benn Robinson, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Wycliff Palu pack down in the forwards in what looks a competitive outfit for Cheika's second year in charge.

 

 
 
 
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