Larkham’s Tactical Edge: Brumbies prepare for Eden Park raid

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Coach Stephen Larkham named a 6:2 split bench based on the Blues' physicality. He said that with Blues lock and captain Patrick Tuipulotu unavailable, they would go into the team with parity.

"The majority of their game comes through their forwards. They have one of the biggest packs in the competition and are dominant with their scrum, maul, and ball carries.

"And, we want to make sure that we give our guys an opportunity to empty their tanks."

Test prop James Slipper has been included in the side after a lengthy injury break.

"He trained well last week, and he's keen to get out there, and we're happy he's out there. He's one of our most experienced players, and you need experienced players for finals footy.

"He gives confidence to the other front rowers and understands the pressures that come in the scrum and the challenges that front rowers have. He has that ability to fix those challenges on the run which is what we're going to have to do this weekend."

Larkham said the side learned from their semifinal exit last season at the hands of the Chiefs and their earlier visit this year to Auckland when they lost 7-46.

"We're also on a roll in terms of our ability to win games. Our game on the weekend was pretty much spot on.

"We've been building all year to try and get our best performances in the finals, and we're looking to take it a step further compared to last week, where a few things hurt us and we let ourselves down.

"We want to make sure that we're a little more clinical in all aspects of our game this weekend."

First five-eighths Noah Lolesio has extended his contract due to the season.

He said he was 50-50 when the competition started on whether he would stay.

But under Larkham's coaching, he has been given more rein on how the team wants to play.

"He's been helping me heaps as well. You don't get any better mentor than Bernie [Larkham]."

Lolesio hopes to use that support to see the Brumbies take a step into next weekend's final.

"It doesn't get any better than this against a team of real quality like the Blues at Eden Park.

"We've played consistent footy, open at times, and can play control if needed. But all the games don't mean much unless we put on a performance on Friday.

Lolesio said the upheavals in Australian rugby during the Eddie Jones era that saw him have a stint in France had turned into the most critical experience of his career to date. But that would not have happened if he had made the Wallabies last season.

"My experience over there was awesome. I enjoyed it. It put perspective on footy, on and off the field. I've tried to take my approach from France back to here."

He felt more relaxed in his game and didn't put much pressure on himself.