Brumbies hope form is rewarded at World Cup time

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Brumbies are in red-hot form heading into finals and fullback Tom Banks says he hopes their 2019 performances pay dividends at the World Cup selection table.

While Wallabies ambitions have been parked for the Super Rugby season, Banks said on Tuesday that the Brumbies’ form would hopefully be rewarded come Test time.

Banks is one of a host of Brumbies players putting their hands up for World Cup spots with their form this season.

Since Michael Cheika took over the team has often been dominated by Waratahs, often deservedly so, but the Brumbies’ record is a step above their Australian counterparts.

While their front rowers have been mainstays of the team in recent years, players like Banks, Joe Powell, Rory Arnold and Pete Samu are pushing their cases for more game time this season.

Though Banks said Wallabies was far from their main focus, he said the team’s performance would hopefully pay dividends when it comes to Test selection time.

“You've probably got to put that aside,” he said.

“It's in a lot of people's minds (externally) at the moment but our sole focus at the moment is definitely the Brumbies and inadvertently if we can do really well as a team and get deep into the finals that'll help our World Cup chances.

“That's (team form)  a major thing.

“If the team's performing really well and that means the players are obviously performing well so hopefully off a good performance for the Brumbies, a lot of our players will make that World Cup squad and I think that's how it should be.”

After a patchy start to the season, the Brumbies have steamrolled their way into the finals with wins from eight of their past nine games.

A win against the Sharks in Saturday night’s quarter-final would stretch a club record streak to seven games while their home record would extend to eight, closing in on an 11-game run back in 2014/15.

Banks said he felt the side was timing its run well this season.

“I think it's similar to last year, we sort of started slow but then we tried to build momentum. It's really worked well for us,” he said.

“I think we've won eight of our last nine so we've really built good momentum at the right end of the season, just got to bring that into finals.”

The Super Rugby conference system puts the Brumbies in a strange position of playing a side in the finals that they didn’t meet in the regular season.

Banks said that didn’t worry them.

“It's hard but I think we'll know what they bring,” he said.

“We've been able to review enough game.s We know they're a big side and they have some strong ball carriers but we just need to stick to our game plan, play with skill and we should get over the top.”

The  Brumbies’ form against South African teams would certainly be a source of comfort.

The ACT outfit has won six of their past seven matches against African opponents, including a 24-17 win over the Sharks in 2018 - and they took a clean sweep in their South Africa tour earlier this year.

Henry Speight is expected to return to the side from injury this weekend and Banks said Speight’s comeback would be a handy one for the side.

Henry Speight has signed with the Queensland Reds until the end of 2021. Photo: Getty Images “Henry brings that spark and that defensive pressure,” he said.

“I think teams hate coming up against him because he's a good physical presence and he's an exciting player.”

Toni Pulu would also be an expected inclusion, along with Tom Cusack after both were rested from the side to take on the Reds last weekend.

Brumbies recruit Tom Wright would be the man to lose his starting spot if Pulu did return but he said simply being a part of a finals campaign would satisfy him.

Wright joined the Brumbies from the NRL's Manly and this is his first senior finals campaign, aside from a 20s decider with the Sea Eagles.

The 21-year-old said he was relishing the opportunity to be experiencing sudden-death rugby.

"I was only talking to a few guys before just saying how exciting it is being here this time of year," he said.

"We're just treating it as if it's any other week, haven't changed a thing.

"Where some sides are actually finished for the year, we're in a quarter-final. Getting to play this weekend if that opportunity arises, I'll just take it with both hands whether it be in a jersey 1-15 or 16-23."

The Brumbies take on the Sharks in their Super Rugby quarter-final on Saturday June 22, kicking off at 8:05pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Kayo Sports and via RADIO. Buy tickets here.