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Brumbies make raft of Super Rugby changes

NZN 23/03/2017 Matt Coughlan

The Brumbies have made five changes to their Super Rugby starting line-up to face the Highlanders, with Scott Sio and Saia Fainga'a named on the bench to play their first match for the season.

While the Brumbies put in their strongest performance of the year with a 28-12 victory over the Waratahs last week, coach Stephen Larkham has not been afraid to make changes for Saturday night's match at GIO Stadium.

Rory Arnold has been rotated to the bench with Blake Enever given the chance to start his first match of the season along with hooker Robbie Abel, who will replace Josh Mann-Rea after he suffered a knee injury against the Waratahs that could keep him sidelined for up to two months.

Prop Nic Mayhew, flanker Chris Alcock and winger James Dargaville return to the starting line-up with Ben Alexander and Lolo Fakaosilea dropping to the bench.

Test prop Sio is in line to make his first appearance of the season off the bench after recovering from a hamstring injury, while fellow Wallabies player Fainga'a will play his first game for the Brumbies in almost a decade after returning to the club in the off-season.

Fainga'a has had an interrupted start to the season with the Brumbies after the death of his father, Saia senior.

"He's a guy that adds impact when he comes off the bench and that's what we're expecting," Larkham said.

"He's a Super Rugby winner and a Test player. He's still got that fire to play at the next level as well."

Sio was almost ready to play against the Waratahs but the Brumbies opted to be cautious with the 25-year-old.

"He's highly motivated this year to perform well. He was probably a bit disappointed with some of his performances last year," Larkham said.

With former assistant coach Tony Brown taking the reins at the Highlanders in 2017, Larkham isn't expecting a different style from the side that knocked them out of the finals last year.

"They've still got a lot of the tricks that they had last year. They're very inventive with how they play from line-out and scrum," Larkham said.

"They still kick the ball a lot and defensively they're still a very good outfit."

Brumbies: Aidan Toua, Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Kyle Godwin, james Dargaville, Wharenui Hawera, Joe Powell, Jordan Smiler, Chris Alcock, Scott Fardy, Sam Carter (capt), Blake Enever, Allan Alaalatoa, Robbie Abel, Nic Mayhew. Res: Saia Fainga'a, Scott Sio, Ben Alexander, Rory Arnold, Tom Stainforth, Lolo Fakaosilea, De Wet Roos, Jordan Jackson-Hope.

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