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Brumbies' Mann-Rea makes Super return

NZN 18/04/2017 Matt Coughlan

Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham has given his players a licence to thrill as they try to match the attacking might of the Hurricanes in their Super Rugby clash in Napier.

Larkham has recalled experienced hooker Josh Mann-Rea for Friday night's daunting assignment after the 36-year-old recovered earlier than expected from a knee injury.

"Bongo (Mann-Rea) is a marquee player for us," coach Stephen Larkham said.

"He's a stand-out player at set-piece time but also around the field and I think ahead of schedule with his injury, it's timely to bring him back in."

While Larkham was full of praise for Robbie Abel's performances in the No. 2 jersey, he also said deficiencies at the line-out had cost the Brumbies in their upset two-point loss to the Melbourne Rebels last week.

The Hurricanes lead the competition in key attacking statistics and boast Super Rugby's two most prolific try scorers in Ngani Laumape and Vince Aso.

But Larkham isn't planning on abandoning the Brumbies' recent focus on attack, vowing to encourage his players to beat the Hurricanes at their own game.

"You've got to be very clever strategically against New Zealand sides with the opportunities you give them from turnover and counterattack, but at the same time you've got to score points against them," Larkham said.

"I don't think it's a case of just trying to hold them out. It's a matter for us to try and find some space on the field in attack as well."

New Zealand sides are 12-0 against Australian opposition this season, with the Canberra-based franchise coming close to the Crusaders and Highlanders in bonus-point losses.

The Brumbies' attacking firepower will be driven by winger Henry Speight, outside centre Tevita Kuridrani and fullback Aidan Toua.

"If there's any sniff of momentum or a line-break or a bit of space on the field then we're encouraging them to use their skills rather than put boot to ball," Larkham said.

Winger James Dargaville also returns to the Brumbies' starting side in place of Tom Banks, continuing the club's commitment to rotation.

"We're making sure we're keeping the majority of the squad motivated and fresh," he said.

Abel will start on the bench alongside Lolo Fakaosilea and Nigel Ah Wong, while hooker Saia Fainga'a, lock Tom Staniforth and back-rower Tom Cusack drop out of the squad.

Brumbies: Aidan Toua, Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Andrew Smith, James Dargaville, Wharenui Hawera, Joel Powell, Jarrad Butler, Chris Alcock, Scott Fardy, Sam Carter (capt), Rory Arnold, Allan Alaalatoa, Josh Mann-Rea, Scott Sio. Replacements: Robbie Abel, Nic Mayhew, Ben Alexander, Blake Enever, Lolo Fakaosilea, De Wet Roos, Jordan Jackson-Hope, Nigel Ah Wong.

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