Competition key for Brumbies in Super Rugby AU "race", pay talks to continue into next week

Super Rugby - AU
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Competition is the key for the Brumbies heading into the 12-week Super Rugby AU "race", attack coach Peter Hewat says.

The Brumbies held an intraclub match, giving the coaches a chance to see players perform under match level pressure and push their cases for a start against the Rebels next Saturday.

Hewat said the game had given staff plenty of insight heading into round one.

"The intensity was in our game, game speed, speed of the game, we brought a few things to our game which we're trying out over the break so it was nice to see them under full game pressure.

"As coaches, we were very happy with how it went."

Most importantly, Friday proved a good reminder of the jostling that players will have to do to earn a spot in the 23, Hewat said.

"You want guys that are pushing each other and making each other better in the long run," he said.

"We've had a squad mentality the whole year and that'll probably be more important over this next competition.

"It's pretty much a bit of a race. We'd like to give everyone a go that's performed at training, we've had a long time training, so we've got to be able to give guys opportunities that have trained well, we've also got to reward form from the first seven weeks of the other competition.

On the injury front, fullback Tom Banks has been working his way back from a foot injury during the sport's shut down but Hewat was confident only Cadeyrn Neville and Nick Frost would miss next weekend's round one match against the Rebels.

It will be the second row that proves to be among the most intriguing with Blake Enever departing and Ben Hyne joining the club while Neville's injury opens up a spot in the starting side.

In the backline the competition is intense, especially in the wing posts with Andy Muirhead, Solomone Kata and Tom Wright all battling to starting on the edge.

The Brumbies' backrow has long been among its most congested departments and Brumbies flanker Tom Cusack said that competition already felt fierce.

"I'm comfortable with the coaches' decision on which way they choose to take it," he said.

"Obviously, I'd very much like to be a part of the starting side come July 4 against the Rebels but Willy Miller's in fantastic form as we saw at the back end of the first block.

"The back row in particular...everyone's putting their best foot forward coming into round one and it's going to be a fantastic back row no matter which combination they choose to go with."

While talk will turn more to actual rugby next week, the shadow of a still to be finalised pay deal will still be hanging over the early parts of the week.

Players are currently on an average 60 per cent pay cut until September 30 but the remainder of the year is being negotiated in the wake of the Super Rugby AU competition being finalised.

Rugby AU is reportedly asking players to take an average 40 per cent cut until the end of the year.

Strike action that was reportedly floated earlier this week by a frustrated playing group appears unlikely but there is also no clear timeframe on a resolution.

With Super Rugby AU kicking off on Friday, time is ticking on an agreement and all parties will be hoping to get details sorted well before the Reds and Waratahs kick off in Brisbane.

Cusack said he hoped it would be wrapped up quickly.

"It's above my pay grade in that area but by all means, the right people are at the forefront of the discussions and by all means I feel that it will get done," he said.

Hewat had only praise for his players in the way they had dealt with the uncertainty around their salaries going forward.

"Our boys have been rock solid there, they haven't really let that affect the way they've trained or performed," he said.

"Obviously there have been discussions going on in the background that we haven't been privy to, but the boys haven't missed a beat during this whole period.

"They've been outstanding. They've trained hard, they came back in really good nick and they haven't missed a beat.

"I can't speak more highly of how professional they've been."