"Big Dog Week" in Canberra as Brumbies prepare for Reds

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

It’s “Big Dog Week” for the Brumbies.

Brumbies prop Allan Alaalatoa used the label in reference to teammate Scott Sio’s 100th Super Rugby game but it wouldn’t take much imagination to broaden that definition ahead of their round 18 clash with the Reds.

“Everyone's saying it's the "big dog week",” Alaalatoa said.

“He's been here for a while but the last couple of years he's probably had a few setback injuries but for him to notch up 100 is exciting and just excited to be a part of it.”

Sio will join some illustrious names when he notches his century but it’s the team focus that he has found at the Brumbies since his 2012 debut that he hopes is part of his legacy.

“I think the biggest thing for me was when I first got to this team, I played with a lot of really great players and a lot of things that really stood out and echoed to me was that team success was the most important thing here,” he said.

The Brumbies have been a formidable pack this year. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley“It's been one of the main things that has driven me here in this team.

“I guess it's pretty special to reach that milestone but one thing I want to be remembered for is being in the teams that were successful here so it's something I'm still striving for.”

A team focus is exactly what the Brumbies will need against a Reds pack that dominated the ACT side in their last outing in Brisbane.

The Brumbies have pointed to that match against the Reds as a turning point for them and Alaalatoa said they were wary of the threat.

“If we just rock up this Saturday and just hope to put on a good performance, it's not good enough heading into the finals,” he said.

“I think preparation into this game is like every other game. You have to give the Reds respect because they deserve.

“They beat us over there the last time we played them and they probably bashed us up front.

“I think for us as a forward pack, it's going to be a huge challenge, it's something we're definitely looking forward to and the big dog's 100th game is just that extra motivation to push a bit more.”

The Brumbies’ forward pack has been almost impossible to counter since that Queensland game and one of the most enthralling battles has been between Slipper and Sio - two “big dogs” in reputation and position.

The competition between Sio and Slipper has been some of the tightest of any spot across Australian Super Rugby and it’s not inconceivable that both could be on the plane to Japan with the Wallabies come September.

Certainly, Sio believes this year’s new Brumbies addition has earned a Test recall after injuries and suspension have kept him on the outer in the past two years.

“If you're playing the best and you're available, you should be up for selection,” he said.

“Unfortunately for Slips, it's (his suspension) something that's always going to hang around but he's moved on with his life and he's put his best foot forward here in Canberra.

“After all he went through, it would've been easy for him to just stay up there in Queensland and see things out but he chose to take the tough road and it's paid off for him this year.

James Slipper has been one of the form props in Super Rugby this season. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley“We've challenged each other and it's probably something we both haven't had for a little while now and it's brought the best rugby out of both of us this year.

“I'm very grateful for him coming down here and testing himself.

“It's really made me up my game and cherish that jersey every week.”

The Brumbies are on their longest-winning run since 2007, after five consecutive victories, and the sense of momentum they are building is a familiar one for Sio.

It’s the same feeling he had when the side made its run to the 2013 Super Rugby final and one that has him feeling confident that they can go deep into the playoffs.

“It echoes a lot to me of that 2013 squad, just different individuals but a really cool vibe around there,” he said.

“We got pretty close between then and now but I guess it's just the belief that we can win and we can chance our arm at any time in the game, no matter whether we're on the back foot or not, so belief is a very strong tool to use, especially coming into finals time.”

The Brumbies take on the Reds on Saturday June 15 at GIO Stadium, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Kayo Sports and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Buy tickets here.