Lukhan Tui is set to return to the Queensland Reds after missing two games through suspension.The Queensland Reds can strike a double blow when they travel to the national capital for a pivotal Super Rugby derby against the Brumbies on Saturday night.
Fresh after a well-timed bye, the Reds get the chance to narrow the gap on the conference-leading Melbourne Rebels while also delivering a potentially fatal blow to the Brumbies’ own finals hopes.
The Rebels’ 50-19 capitulation to the Hurricanes on Friday night, coupled with a round-eight bye next weekend, has opened the door for the Reds, NSW Waratahs and Brumbies to make up all-important ground on ‘s early-season pacesetters.
The Reds have won just three times in 22 years in Canberra, but a first road victory over the Brumbies since 2014 would likely reduce the n conference to a three-way battle.
The Brumbies have topped the conference for the past two years but find themselves trailing the Rebels by 12 competition points after Saturday night’s 24-17 loss to the Waratahs.
“It’s disappointing because you have to win your n conference games and we’ve spoken about winning all our games at home,” said Brumbies coach Dan McKellar.
McKellar can expect no let-up from the Reds, ‘s most improved franchise under first-year Super coach Brad Thorn, who are are likely to be bolstered by the return of destructive Wallabies lock Lukhan Tui.
Tui will almost certainly return to the starting side after missing the side’s gruelling two-game tour of Argentina and South Africa through suspension.
The Reds are seven points behind the Rebels, with the Waratahs six points adrift ahead of their trip to Tokyo to take on the Sunwolves.
Wallabies ace Israel Folau won’t make the trip after suffering a hamstring injury against the Brumbies.
Folau is also likely to miss the Waratahs’ hosting of the Reds and Lions in rounds nine and 10, but coach Daryl Gibson is comfortable with his cover after Alex Newsome impressed when called upon just four minutes into Saturday night’s game.
“It’s great for Alex, who performed really well so we’ll keep using that same tactic as with Israel and he took some nice high balls,” Gibson said.
Gibson was thrilled to leave Canberra with the points.
“Given the context of the conference and the competition, it keeps us well and truly alive,” he said.