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Pocock returns for Brumbies clash with Highlanders

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Brumbies head coach Stephen Larkham has included David Pocock in his Super Rugby team to play the Highlanders at Invercargill on Saturday.

Pocock returns from suspension and will be a big boost for the Brumbies who have lost both of their last two matches against New Zealand sides.

Loose-forward Pocock missed the matches against the Waratahs and Crusaders and returns at openside flanker this week.

The return of Pocock means Jarrad Butler shifts to the No.8 position and Jordan Smiler moves to the bench.

Injuries to Joe Tomane (knee) and co-captain Stephen Moore (calf) have forced a reshuffle for the side that will be playing its first match in New Zealand in 2016.

With Tomane ruled out for up to eight weeks with damage to the medial ligament in his right knee, Nigel Ah Wong gains his first start on the wing, while Josh Mann-Rea has been named to start the match at hooker. Moore has not been named for this weekend’s match after suffering a serious cork injury to his calf muscle in last Sunday’s 40-14 loss to the Crusaders at GIO Stadium.

Head Coach Stephen Larkham has named a new-look front row, with Allan Alaalatoa selected to start his second match of the season, replacing Scott Sio who moves to the bench. Alaalatoa has been impressive as an impact player and will be looking to take that form into the starting role on Saturday night.

Joining Alaalatoa and Mann-Rea at tighthead prop will be Ruan Smith, who gets his first start of the year with Ben Alexander missing the match as the Brumbies manage the workload of the 125-match veteran.

Smith’s only other appearance this season was as a replacement in the Brumbies win against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on 26 March. Leslie Leulua’iali’i-Makin retains his position on the bench, while hooker Robbie Abel has been named as a reserve after making his Super Rugby debut against the Cheetahs in round five.

Also earning his first start for the season is 21-year old Tom Staniforth. ACT-born Staniforth has appeared in six Super Rugby matches in 2016, all from the bench. He replaces Rory Arnold who moves to the reserves list.

The Brumbies bench this week will feature six forwards and two backs. Lock Blake Enever has been named as a reserve for the first time since injuring his shoulder in the round two win over the NSW Waratahs, while scrumhalf Joe Powell and the versatile James Dargaville are the two backs named on the bench alongside Abel, Sio, Leulua’iali’i-Makin, Arnold, Enever and Smiler.

The Brumbies have won seven of their last eight matches against the Highlanders including the last three. The Brumbies have earned a win in three of their last four excursions to New Zealand to face the Highlanders with a six-point loss in 2011 the only blemish in that span.

Brumbies

Allan Alaalatoa , Josh Mann-Rea , Ruan Smith , Tom Staniforth , Sam Carter , Scott Fardy , David Pocock , Jarrad Butler , Tomás Cubelli , Christian Lealiifano (c) , Robbie Coleman , Matt Toomua , Tevita Kuridrani , Nigel Ah Wong , Aidan Toua

Replacements : Robbie Abel , Scott Sio , Leslie Leulua’iali’i-Makin , Rory Arnold , Blake Enever , Jordan Smiler , Joe Powell , James Dargaville

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