Aussie wrap (Tues) brings you the latest news from Australia’s Super 14 franchises.

Mortlock wary of rushed return

Stirling Mortlock will be given the maximum time to recover after a concussion ended his match at the weekend.

The Brumbies face the Sharks on Saturday in a match they have to win to keep their play-off hopes alive. Mortlock said he was desperate to play but would wait on the results of further tests before making a decision on his availability.

He missed large portions of last year with concussion, prompting his ultra-conservative approach this time. ‘It’s a bit of a concerning issue from where I was last year,’ Mortlock told the Sydney Morning Herald.

‘If I didn’t go through what I went through last year it wouldn’t be too much of an issue but having been through that and having experienced complications with concussion last year and head knocks, we’ll be assessing it very strictly.’

Brumbies break out Friend

Andy Friend has been appointed as the Brumbies’ new coach.

Friend, currently head coach of Premiership club Harlequins, will take over from Laurie Fisher after this season. Brumbies chief executive Andrew Fagan told the media that Friend is an outstanding coach with a tremendous record internationally. ‘His focus is on very integrated organisation, it’s on attacking football, it’s on entertaining the fans and he’s demonstrated that with the success that he’s had with his team,’ Fagan said.

Friend said, ‘My commitment to our many fans in Australia and around the world is to build on the strong foundations laid by Laurie Fisher and to ensure that the Brumbies continue to play attacking, successful rugby.’

Fagan added that they would give Fisher time to reflect and let this news sink before discussing an ongoing role with him.

Horwill handed Reds reigns

James Horwill has become the Reds’ fourth captain in six weeks and at 22, their youngest ever.

Horwill has been awarded the leadership of the team after Joe Roe was axed and Sam Cordingley and Chris Latham sustained injuries. ‘I think it’s an excellent call by Phil [Mooney - head coach],’ Reds hooker Stephen Moore said. ‘It’s probably time to look to that younger generation as leaders and I think he’s matured a lot in the last 12 months.’

Mooney said Horwill has really matured and has become one of their most consistent players. ‘He’s always been an aggressive character on the field but under forwards coach Mark Bell he’s learned to become a more disciplined player. It’s time for him now to take the next step in his development as a senior rugby player and this appointment is recognition of that.’

Reds - Clinton Schifcofske, Brando Va’aulu, Morgan Turinui, Berrick Barnes, Peter Hynes, Quade Cooper, Ben Lucas, Leroy Houston, David Croft, John Roe, James Horwill (c), Van Humphries, Dayna Edwards, Stephen Moore, Ben Coutts.
Subs: Sean Hardman, Rodney Blake, Ed O’Donoghue, Poutasi Luafutu, Will Genia, Andrew Walker, Charlie Fetoai.

Gits is gone

Matt Giteau has been excluded for the Forces’ clash with the Reds.

Giteau sustained a concussion in Saturday’s match against the Waratahs, his third heavy head knock of the season, and coach John Mitchell refused to risk his star pivot.

Lachlan MacKay replaces him but Mitchell isn’t panicking in the absence of Giteau. “We control our destiny from here onwards, so we have got no choice,” Mitchell said.

“We have still got an opportunity, so we do not have any choice but to play and have a crack. We have still got it stored away that we were called “Queensland B” there at one stage, but that is all negative motivation. If we have to rely on that as motivation, well clearly we should not be involved in professional rugby. We will be above that.”

MacKay said he was braced for the challenge but was under no illusions about what defeat would mean. “We really miss Gits, he is definitely our general out there and our leader on the field,” he said.

“I probably don’t bring that individual brilliance that he does to the game, but hopefully through some communication and leadership I can provide those outstanding boys in the backline outside me. I would not be surprised if they send some heat our way, but that is to be expected in a local clash. This is it for us, if we go down this weekend it ends our chances of getting to the finals.”

Force - Cameron Shepherd, Haig Sare, Ryan Cross, Scott Staniforth, Drew Mitchell, Lachlan Mackay, Chris O’Young, Richard Brown, David Pocock, Scott Fava, Nathan Sharpe (c), Tom Hockings, Troy Takiari, Tai McIsaac, Pek Cowan.
Subs: Luke Holmes, AJ Whalley, Sam Wykes, Tamaiti Horua, James Stannard, James O’Connor, Nick Cummins.