The NSW Waratahs' "lightweight" forwards are bracing for a big test against a beefed up Brumbies pack featuring skyscraper locks Rory and Richie Arnold starting together in Super Rugby for the first time
Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson on Thursday named an unchanged team for Saturday's Super Rugby final round clash at Allianz Stadium, backing those who produced the 77-25 win over the Sunwolves to clinch the Australian conference.
He wasn't surprised by the Brumbies side in which Test prop Scott Sio was recalled at loosehead and Wallabies lock Rory Arnold was paired with twin Richie, also 208cm tall.
The Tahs have just one forward over 195cm in 200cm Rob Simmons
"A lot has been made of our lightweight pack all year, we're not the biggest team," Gibson said.
"I felt we've competed very well in that area given those limitations, so there's no surprise they've named a big side.
"That's probably an area they will target."
Gibson said defence was the area the Waratahs needed to improve on most.
With the 10th-placed Brumbies only a slim chance to make the finals, it may be their last chance to impress Wallabies coach Michael Cheika before he selects his squad for the Rugby Championship starting next month.
Gibson acknowledged there were some key duels.
"That centre battle in (Tevita) Kuridrani and (Curtis) Rona, with (Samu) Kerevi now gone (through injury), that makes it a really interesting matchup for both," Gibson said,
"Then across the board, (halfbacks) Joe Powell and Nick Phipps , the locking battle, the propping battle."
Gibson also revealed Phipps had recently been reinstated as club captain after losing that position in early May, following an incident at his buck's night, where he urinated on the bar of a Sydney pub.
'"He'd served his punishment and the timing was right for him to come back," Gibson said.
Injured Wallabies captain Michael Hooper, who has missed the Tahs last two games with a hamstring injury suffered in the final Test against Ireland, resumed running on Thursday.
Gibson felt the quarter-final next week might just be a bit too early for Hooper.
"He's desperate to try and make those finals series matches and he's doing everything he can to get back," said Gibson.
NSW Waratahs: Israel Folau, Cam Clark, Curtis Rona, Kurtley Beale, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Bernard Foley (capt), Nick Phipps, Michael Wells, Will Miller, Ned Hanigan, Rob Simmons, Jed Holloway, Sekope Kepu, Damien Fitzpatrick, Tom Robertson. Res: Tolu Latu, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Paddy Ryan, Tom Staniforth, Brad Wilkin, Jake Gordon, Alex Newsome, Bryce Hegarty