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Super Rugby AU R8 & Aotearoa R7: Line-ups, odds, analysis

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Where was Waratahs' succession planning? (2:58)

As the fallout from the Waratahs' sacking of Rob Penney continues, the ESPN Scrum Reset crew dig into the club's failed recruitment and retention. (2:58)

How impressive was last weekend's action? The Crusaders shocked at home to lose their first game of the season, the Reds putting on a near perfect performance against the Rebels, while the Waratahs came oh, so close to beating the Brumbies.

This weekend's sure to be just as exciting with the Reds hosting the Brumbies as they battle for top spot, while the Highlanders and Chiefs face off in Dunedin.

Read on as we bring you the latest line-ups, team news, odds and analysis for all four fixtures this weekend.

SUPER RUGBY AU

Friday, April 9

Melbourne Rebels vs. Western Force, AAMI Park, Melbourne 7.45pm [AEST]

Rebels: Reece Hodge, Frank Lomani, Stacey Ili, Lewis Holland, Marika Koroibete, Matt To'omua, Joe Powell; Michael Wells, Richard Hardwick, Josh Kemeny, Trevor Hosea, Rob Leota, Pone Faamausili, James Hanson, Cabous Eloff

Replacements: Jordan Uelese, Matt Gibbon, Lucio Sordoni, Steve Cummins, Brad Wilkin, James Tuttle, Tom Pincus, Jeral Skelton

Force: Jack McGregor, Byron Ralston, Tevita Kuridrani, Kyle Godwin, Jordan Olowofela, Domingo Miotti, Tomas Cubelli; Tomas Lezana, Kane Koteka, Fergus Lee-Warner, Sitaleki Timani, Jeremy Thrush, Santiago Medrano, Feleti Kaitu'u, Tom Robertson

Replacements: Andrew Ready, Jack Winchester, Angus Wagner, Kieran Longbottom, Ryan McCauley, Tim Anstee, Brynard Stander, Ian Prior, Grason Makara, Richard Kahui (two to omit)

Odds [tab.com.au]: Rebels (-9.5) $1.85, head-to-head $1.28. Force (+9.5) $1.95, head-to-head $3.70

Verdict: Blown off the park last week, the Rebels will be looking to turn the tides and send a strong message to the rest of the competition. Yet to really find their feet in 2021, the Rebels have been involved in several close finishes, but have come away with just two wins. Moving Reece Hodge to fullback Wessels will be hoping his side can find a bit more balance in the backline, while James Hanson returns to the starting line up alongside Cabous Eloff. With just the one win to their name, and a new look backline, the Force will be out to surprise the Rebels in Melbourne. Injury ran rampant in their backline just weeks ago, but they'll be hoping international talent in Tomas Cubelli, Tevita Kuridrani and Richard Kahui can help them to a second win. It's unlikely though with the Rebels starting to find some rhythm. Rebels by 10.

Saturday, April 10

Queensland Reds vs. Brumbies, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, 7:45pm [AEST]

Reds: Bryce Hegarty, Jordan Petaia, Hunter Paisami, Hamish Stewart, Jock Campbell, James O'Connor, Tate McDermott; Harry Wilson, Fraser McReight, Angus Scott-Young, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Ryan Smith, Taniela Tupou, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Feao Fotuakia

Replacements: Alex Mafi, Richie Asiata, Zane Nanggorr, Seru Uru, Liam Wright, Kalani Thomas, Josh Flook, Filipo Daugunu

Brumbies: Tom Banks, Andy Muirhead,Len Ikitau, Irae Simone, Tom Wright, Noah Lolesio, Nic White; Pete Samu, Tom Cusack, Rob Valetini, Cadeyrn Neville, Darcy Swain, Allan Alaalatoa, Folau Fainga'a, James Slipper

Replacements: Lachlan Lonergan, Scott Sio, Sefo Kautai, Nick Frost, James Tucker, Ryan Lonergan, Bayley Kuenzle, Mack Hansen

Odds [tab.com.au]: Reds (-2.5) $1.90, head-to-head $1.74. Brumbies (+2.5) $1.90, head-to-head $2.10

Verdict: There's sure to be fireworks as the two best teams in the competition face-off for top spot on the Super Rugby AU ladder and the right to host the grand final. The Reds remain unbeaten so far in 2021 and look unstoppable with their forwards and backs all playing from the same song sheet. Meanwhile, the Brumbies have suffered just the one defeat --against the Reds -- and will be keen to rectify the issue. With Wallabies battles across the park, especially at No.9 and No.10, expect the ball to be in play for much of the match and a very fast paced match. Whoever wins though will need to do it up front, with both teams running around with the strongest back rows and very impressive scrummaging forwards. While it'll be a tight match, the Reds at home with a home grand final on the line should be too hard to overcome. Reds by three.

BYE: Waratahs

SUPER RUGBY AOTEAROA

Saturday, April 10

Highlanders vs. Chiefs, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, 5.05pm [AEST]

Highlanders: Connor Garden-Bachop, Ngatungane Punivai, Patelesio Tomkinson, Scott Gregory, Jona Nareki, Mitch Hunt, Aaron Smith; Kazuki Himeno, James Lentjes, Shannon Frizell, Pari Pari Parkinson, Bryn Evans, Josh Hohneck, Ash Dixon, Ethan de Groot.

Replacements: Liam Coltman, Ayden Johnstone, Siate Tokolahi, Josh Dickson, Billy Harmon Kayne Hammington, Josh Ioane, Hugh Renton.

Chiefs: Damian McKenzie, Jonah Lowe, Anton Lienert-Brown, Quinn Tupaea, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Kaleb Trask, Brad Weber; Luke Jacobson, Kaylum Boshier, Mitchell Brown, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Tupou Vaa'i, Angus Ta'avao, Samisoni Taukei'aho, Aidan Ross.

Replacements: Bradley Slater, Ollie Norries, Joe Apikotoa, Samipeni Finau, Pita Gus Sowakula, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Alex Nankivell, Shaun Stevenson.

Odds: [tab.com.au] Highlanders (-3.5) $1.85, head-to-head $1.62. Chiefs (+3.5) $1.95, head-to-head $2.30

Verdict: While the Crusaders have all but claimed top spot, there's still a tousle for second and third place giving this match-up plenty of importance. With just one point separating the Highlanders (9) and Chiefs (8) on the table, a win on Saturday could set up a finals appearance, so expect fireworks in Dunedin. The dry, fast track will no doubt play to the Highlanders advantage, but with Damian McKenzie stepping up in recent weeks, the Chiefs will be sure to keep up with the pace. It'll be tight, but there'll no doubt be plenty of points. Chiefs by 3.

Sunday, April 11

Hurricanes vs. Crusaders, Sky Stadium, Wellington, 1:35pm [AEST]

Hurricanes: Jordie Barrett, Julian Savea, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Ngani Laumape, Wes Goosen, Ruben Love, Luke Campbell; Devan Flanders, Ardie Savea, Reed Prinsep, Isaia Walker-Leawere, James Blackwell, Tyrel Lomax, Dane Coles, Xavier Numia.

Replacements: Asafo Aumua, Tevita Mafileo, Alex Fidow, Scott Scrafton, Vaea Fifita, Du'Plessis Kirifi, Jonathan Taumateine, Billy Proctor.

Crusaders: Will Jordan, Sevu Reece, Jack Goodhue, David Havili, George Bridge, Richie Mo'unga, Bryn Hall; Cullen Grace, Sione Havili Talitui, Whetukamokamo Douglas, Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Oli Jager, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody.

Replacements: Brodie McAlister, George Bower, Michael Alaalatoa, Mitchell Dunshea, Tom Sanders, Mitch Drummond, Dallas McLeod, Leicester Fainga'anuku.

Odds: [tab.com.au] Hurricanes (+10.5) $1.90, head-to-head $3.70. Crusaders (-10.5) $1.90, head-to-head $1.28

Verdict: Who could have predicted last week's result? The Crusaders going down at home seems to come as rarely as Halley's Comet, so there's no doubt they'll be raring to go when they hit the paddock on Sunday afternoon. It's not good news for the Hurricanes who featured in a scrappy affair against the Blues. Named in his first start for the Canes, all eyes will be on young Ruben Love as he takes on All Blacks fly-half Richie Mo'unga. For the Crusaders, meanwhile, Bryn Hall and Sevu Reece make their return, bolstering their already strong backline. A wounded Crusaders are surely a side to fear, there's potential for a blood bath as they seek to get back to winning ways. Crusaders by 21.

Bye: Blues